Rifts World Book 8: Japan by occamsnailfile
*gong* What do you imagine when you think about Japan?Original SA post
So it's been too long and completely my fault but now it is time for more Rifts! We've finally reached World Book 8: Japan! Featuring tradeoff between me and ARB, with color commentary included.
Rifts World Book 8: Japan Part 1: *gong* What do you imagine when you think about Japan?
It is time to journey westward. Far, far westward. Past San Francisco, and all the islands of the Pacific...all the way to where west wraps back around to East: Japan. Land of the Rising Sun, Origin of the Animes, Geek Fetish Kingdom 1995-Present. The name conjures up a lot of images in peoples’ minds, many of them more wildly inaccurate than average when thinking of a foreign country. First published in 1995, Rifts Japan is surely going to be a respectful and carefully researched treatment of a complex nation.
Directly after Kevin’s usual warning about how this book will not teach your children to be cyborg ninja-samurai there is a dedication:
Rifts Japan posted:
Dedicated to Maryann, who has the spirit of a warrior and the tenacity of an oni. And to Erick Wujcik and Julius Rosenstein the only samurai I have ever known.
I am assuming Maryann is his wife and I suppose that is sweet in a bumbling middle-aged midwestern sort of way, but I have not read many tales of the ancient samurai clans of Wujick and Rosenstein.
There is also a special thanks to Wujcik for “sharing his of his (sic) vast knowledge about the Japanese culture, people, traditions, myths, and history.” As we know, this is the man who wrote Ninjas and Superspies and also Mystic China. So yeah, he knows Japan.
Alien Rope Burn: Maryann was indeed his wife (and Palladium employee), but they divorced awhile back. It should be noted that Patrick Nowak and CJ Carella also contribute to this book. Nowak will be an ongoing contributor to the line going forward, while CJ Carella’s contributions should be well-known to anybody following these reviews at this point.
Full disclosure here: I hate talking about this online, but I have a master’s degree in Asian Studies (“The influence of Nationalism on Sino-Japanese relations” ), studied Japanese for several years and lived there for one year. There’s a lot of historical inaccuracy in this book and I will try to address it as briefly as possible, so my summarizing may be flippant.
I was also, at the time this book was published, an anime-obsessed teen girl who believed all the magical fairy tales (even as they conflicted) about Japan being this special mystical wonderland and yet also a superfuture arcology full of wonders.
Some things obviously changed between then and now, and I haven’t looked at this book in a really long time. I remember liking a lot of it when I was a kid, though reading Rifts statblocks with a lot of skepticism was advisable even in the teenaged years. By World Book 8 I’d seen enough trap options to be wary.
Now? I fully expect to hate it. I dislike nearly all anime and have been burned so many times by “no really this one is really good” that I will cut you for trying that, and have forgotten more about Japan than Erick Wujcik ever knew. I also just sort of suffer silently through any time western media does anything related to Japan. But I’m going to give it a real go, because part of me still loves Rifts way more than it deserves.
probably cooler than anything you can make
As mentioned earlier, Americans have pretty conflicting images about Japan. On the one hand, it’s a place lost in time with mist-filled bamboo groves surrounding beautiful ancient shrines staffed by cute girls in period costume. On the other, it’s a bustling metropolis where businessmen work themselves literally to death in order to destroy American manufacturing. Also, ninjas and stuff. And geisha. All women in kimono are geisha right?
Siembieda starts off his introduction with basically that, talking about all the cool stuff about Japan that he wanted to include. He doesn’t mention anime by name, but he doesn’t need to at that point, and also people were still calling it “Japanimation” half the time. He is also really fixated on the idea of the “oni,” like way more than Japanese myth is, and certainly culture. Like, he had space oni in Phase World and of course they’re going to show up again here. Did he just really love the Ogre Magi?
The word “exotic” is used repeatedly and includes pre-rift cities “having been rifted into limbo for 300 years, experiencing only three days” before being brought back into modern Japan. That’s right, Japan
Kevin also promises a huge tome of Japanese myth, lore, and monsters to come out in 1996, saying it would be Conversion Book sized and be titled something like “Gods & Oni of Rifts Japan.” Needless to say this never happened, or was even mentioned again IIRC.
Alien Rope Burn: The book also promises a variety of books, some of which wouldn’t be released for over 15 years. It also adverts for “The Omegan Order”, a book that’s a complete mystery that was never released, and for a Windows-based “Rifts Game Master Companion” program, which was supposed to have a character generator, campaign manager, an index to “ten Rifts books” (woefully inadequate even at this point), and a variety of other promised functions. Though there would eventually be Rifts Indexes and Rifts Game Master Guide in physical form, the program itself would never emerge.
insert coin now and receive 2 free ninja magics!
This rendition of Japan will be a little weird for not having cell phones. I mean a lot weird. This book was published in 1994 so this was slightly before the cellphone craze really got started, but it's such a fixture now that it's hard to see Japan without them. Especially since modern Japanese cities (but not Tokyo!) have made it through. The lack of satellites might inhibit development of a full network in Rifts Earth but my understanding is that a tower network doesn’t rely on those. So that will be different.
Alien Rope Burn: To be fair, Siembieda is a guy who still thinks the M48A3 Patton will still be used by the US army in 2100 AD.
It will also be weird for the reasons Rifts is weird about everything. Next: We shall begin on the islands themselves!
The Japanese Islands and the New EmpireOriginal SA post Rifts World Book 8: Japan Part 2: The Japanese Islands and the New Empire
So, now we get our geography lesson. I can’t wait for the percentile population breakdowns by race and OCC! Most of the planet, we are reminded, is a hostile wilderness dotted by pockets of civilization. We are of course still ignoring just how far and fast nuclear-powered aircraft could travel to emphasize that Japan is all isolated and stuff. Most of Russia, China, Mongolia, India and “Asia” (listed like that) are overrun by monsters. I am sure Rifts Russia pts 1 & 2 and China 1 & 2 have some further commentary on that, but paradoxically despite having their pantheon written up, India remains inscrutable to documentation.
Given this monster-filled wasteland atmosphere, it any surprise that the Chinese and Koreans surrounding Japan are primarily freebooters and pirates? It is not, according to Rifts Japan. Way to play to nationalistic stereotypes there buddy.
Quite a few are spent on how dangerous and difficult it is to get to Japan with a subtext of “so don’t you even think about it, Eurotrash.” “Less than 30% of most airborne or ocean travelers ever reach their destination.” Really? Under thirty percent for any voyage? I mean given that the Horune pirates from Underseas should have basically populated every ocean hex with a massively OP ship I suppose that number is actually high, but all those other pirates seem to manage their sea voyages okay.
Also there’s another one of those Bermuda Triangle thingies southeast of Japan, called the Dragon’s Triangle of course.
Then we are informed that the cities rifted into the future are Hiroshima, Kure, Iwakuni and “Ichto.” Seriously, no Tokyo? I guess the ocean ate it when the coastlines changed, but if that were going to happen basically every major city in Japan would be gone, rifts or no rifts.
Now, hurray, we get a population breakdown for the New Empire: 6,800,000, 1.2 million of which live in a presumably-rebuilt Kyoto. 73% of these are Japanese humans, 8% ‘non-Japanese’. 20% Eta/D-bees. These already tell us some important things about the beliefs of the New Empire, namely that humans shall never live in peace and harmony with bumpy-headed Star Trek aliens, no how. There’s also “15% Oni & Others” who are counted among the population figures despite not being described as citizens, but “creatures that live in the more remote and mountainous areas.”
2% of this population total will be magic-users of one sort or another, 12% spiritualists/priests (that seems high for professional religious classes, though their magical utility makes it more supportable), 22% Warriors (again high), 50% farmers, laborers, etc (way, way low) and 14% Eta (butchers, tanners, laborers who do things considered ritually impure, at least as they were traditionally conceived).
Religion-wise, they’re 92% Shinto, 4% Buddhist, 4% Other (can’t even say the word “Christian” eh?), 88% Unshakable Anti-Technologists!, 7% Want a higher degree of technology but are tempered with a high regard for nature, the environment, spiritualism, bust most abide by Shinto teachings (which are what? Seriously Shinto doesn’t have much to say on tech) and 5% Like and use higher technology; mostly non-humans, eta and mercs.
Alien Rope Burn: Shinto and Buddhism are exclusive now? So much for Wujcik’s “vast knowledge”.
Obviously there’s a table heading missing there, dealing with beliefs about technology. It’s a preview of what we are to receive however: The New Empire is a bunch of agrarian village-dwellers governed by samurai, because the instant modern order is removed, everyone jumps straight back into the most stereotypical notion of the past that Siembieda can conceive of. They did the same thing with England with all the stupid kingdoms but it’s even worse here, as to be “spiritual” the New Imperials have to explicitly reject technology, and even though the Japanese would tell you the Heian period is the cultural ideal they’d want to revert to (I mean, sort of, it is at least the most-romanticized) this is clearly based on the Tokugawa as envisioned by someone who read a popular book on Japan written in the 80s at some point.
Also: Fewer than 50% of Japanese identify themselves as members of an organized religion, as of 2008 or so. 35% identified as Buddhist versus 3 to 4% who actively identified themselves as Shinto practitioners. This is complicated by the fact that being ‘Buddhist’ in Japan still means you can (and probably do) visit and pray at Shinto shrines and so on. It’s a lot more syncretic and flexible than we’re used to. “92% Shinto” has been true of Japan basically never. In pre-modern times the Buddhists and Shinto sects had sectarian wars and stuff and one side (or sect) might be ascendant for a time but it was never that unified--and Shinto itself is not a super-unified thing. I should also note that this is the only time I can find that Rifts has given a religious population breakdown.
It seems like there should’ve been one in Wormwood, but of course Wormwood had a large central Church about whose actual beliefs and liturgy we are given nothing. In England we had yet another Arthurian rehash that carefully elided any mention of Christianity when talking about pastiches of those most Christian knights. In Africa we had literal pygmies who loved nature or something but no formal name for their religion beyond ‘medicine’.
In Japan we are told that Shinto is powerful and centralized and universal and this is the only time a real religion is even mentioned in Rifts--and they’ve done a really shitty job with it. Just really shitty. The last time Shinto was a central state religion ah, ended badly shall we say.
practical dress for encountering the challenges of the modern rifts world
The New Empire is not very unified for an Empire, being as mentioned a bunch of agrarian weirdos who don’t want to use all the nice guns that would fend off the apparently endless stream of oni living up in them thar hills. Kyoto is the Holy City and has been rebuilt in the shade of a Millennium Tree because them trees know where the tourist dollars will be a-comin’. Many petty shogunates and such sprung up in the region after the cataclysm basically wiped the islands clean, but somehow they all just sort of peacefully merged to form the New Empire. This, again, peaceful unification is not a thing that has happened in Japanese history. Erick Wujcik your “vast knowledge” is failing us!
In the background of this is Mount Fuji, according to the book. Here is a protip: You cannot see Fuji from Kyoto. You have to take the train. A bunch of colorful characters live there now, I’m sure we’ll hear more about that later.
Having namechecked some landmarks, we now go on to why the Japanese decided to go back to largely feudal subsistence farming. Basically, having seen the chaos of the great cataclysm and the release of enormous magical energies, people decided that technology was evil and they had lost touch with nature and that was why the “bachi” (罰) was visited upon them. “Divine Cataclysm” isn’t what that word means, it’s more like...general purpose karma but, w’ev. Priests began teaching against any technology and everyone just up and converted easily, no resistance or polarizing charismatic leaders required. This was easy because the Japanese people are ~so spiritual~ you see. Guns are bad, magic is good, but they still only have 2% magic users despite that now being their only weapon against a hostile world.
“Bushido” has been reinstated, never mind that is a social technology from the 19th century grafted with medieval roots. Eight Daimyo now have samurai again, who oversee the peasants and kick the eta around and etc. There was at least some period of civil war I see, but mostly the threat of constant invasion by demons and monsters caused unification by 1 PA, right when the Coalition was founded. “At the demand of the Emperor,” who apparently jumped fully formed out of the Millennium Tree, they formed a government they could live with. Oh, and the Emperor can be female now. It’s just mentioned. All eight daimyo have to contribute 20% of their samurai to the national army under the direct command of the shogun because again we’re not really studying Japanese history here, just sort of cosplaying it badly.
There’s also an Imperial Court but they’re mostly advisors and relatives of the Emperor and not particularly important. The Shogun “accepts the Emperor’s power and is satisfied with his position.” Pfft… There are eight daimyo, I’m guessing at least one is secretly evil and one is a sexy lady. The samurai are an elite class of warriors, often landowners, and “Most are noble, honorable, and heroic knights of the realm dedicated to keeping the New Empire safe.” Of course they are Kev-chan. Of course they are. Peasants are farmers and laborers who don’t touch meat or decay (roughly) and eta are the same thing but they do. Both of the latter two classes are forbidden to bear arms, and there is no social advancement short of joining a religious order or becoming a “kabuki entertainer” because that’s the only kind of theater Japan has.
Most peasants are described as reasonably happy and most administrators as reasonably good, this is explained by the Emperor’s extraordinary leadership and the actual presence of spirits and gods who punish the wicked sometimes. The eta, meanwhile, are abandoned even by the capriciously limited statblocks of MDC gods and have little protection even while they do all those nasty jobs that must be done to avoid literal shit and corpses piling up everywhere. 65% of the eta are D-bees of various sorts, 15% are Japanese humans and the rest-- Being freely abused by those in power, they are most likely to turn to darkness for some payback.
Merchants were omitted from the peasant section, and in the true Tokugawa fashion, currency-handlers are disdained as being ignoble, but they are tolerated to run the samurai businesses for them. Of course, if things were going to exactly mimic historical patterns, they’d have the whole daimyo system precariously in debt by the time some external power stops by to force the equilibrium to shatter. Ninja are mentioned as...a thing, it isn’t specified if they’re illegal or what, they just exist. Doctors also exist and apparently so does pathology. Monks and priests have a poorly-defined religious space where they are defended but don’t really seem to be based anywhere much or state-supported. Wizards are unaligned as far as the caste system goes. Cyborgs seeking to get back in touch with their natures or whatever are okay, apparently 48 cyborgs (specifically) have come to reside in the New Empire for purposes of spiritual healing. Lastly, outright slavery is not permitted, though peasants and eta are indentured to a samurai-class landowner.
We get a very brief, very weak statblock for ‘peasant’ which gives some complete crap skill selections and notes only 15% are literate. Looking at the end of the book, they don’t even get an XP table. That’s okay, gaining levels in Palladium games doesn’t matter that much anyway.
Samurai are the military ruling class and also primary protectors of the realm. I sure hope they figured out how to do mega-damage with swords. Also, only the samurai are allowed to openly carry weapons. Punishments for crimes range from death (possessing technology) to confiscation of weapons and lashes (weapons charges), to whipping (peasant riding a horse), to more whipping and fines (theft) to a stern lecture and public humiliation (possession of technology? ) to execution or banishment for murder. Use of charms and magic to swindle or cheat people is a “serious offense.”
situated in what is roughly the ‘Kinki’ region of Japan
The New Empire doesn’t spend a lot of time on foreign relations. They tried sending expeditions to China but found the place infested with “oni.” They are devoted to making the Republic of Japan, their immediate westerly neighbor, see the error of their ways. As a military society run by a warrior class they do this with peaceful protests and philosophical discussions. Surprisingly, here we have two human nations who disagree about the magic/technology thing who are not actively at war. They disagree but they don’t fight about it. “Ichto” province are apparently the bad tech people who have outlawed all that hippy-dippy talk and are mean to New Empire folk. Takamatsu kingdom seems to put the lie to the anti-tech by keeping things in harmony. Otomo Shogunate & H-Brand are corporate enemies of the Empire. And then there’s The Zone. Encompassing most of central Honshu, this seems to be a place full of demons. They have no contact with all those other lovingly detailed nations from other Rifts books, so be prepared to Perry it up if PCs from elsewhere come knocking. They don’t even know the Pacific sea nations aside from the Horune and Naut’yll raiders.
Phew, that was long. And I knew there would be something like this but they still managed to impress me with their level of fetish for “traditional Japan” as seen through a crazy lens.
We shall continue next time with more places, starting with whatever Takamatsu is.
Continuing our tourOriginal SA post Rifts World Book 8: Japan Part 3: Continuing our tour
Takamatsu is our second stop on this wild tour of Rifts Japan. The population is about 320 thousand people total, so a mid-sized city, primarily based on northern Shikoku. It’s interesting how completely Siembieda rejected Tokyo, which is very much the center of Japanese life, and focused on the Kanto region. The Takamatsu kingdom is reasonably modern with early 20th century level industrial capabilities. Their main asset is the use of a stable rift to raid the natural resources of a seemingly uninhabited Earthlike dimension. That’s kind of huge, it seems like a lot of enemy powers would want that very badly. Also, it’s surprising their industrial base is that poorly advanced with those kinds of resources. The Republic of Japan (whom we haven’t met yet) are somewhat dependent on Takamatsu for resources and considering signing a closer alliance with them.
honestly? reminds me of the city set in Crackdown
Takamatsu is a huge melting pot of conflicting cultures and ideas, high-tech and low, magic and mundane, humans and non-humans. It is tolerant and diverse and. That’s as much as we know about their society and government. The name says ‘kingdom’ but nothing else is written about what’s involved there, if it’s a constitutional monarchy, or anything else. The population is 43% D-Bees so I guess they’re pretty open to new experiences. Really though, this area just screams ‘adventurers recruit here’ since you can easily justify any concept running around, but they give us nothing at all about this place. It’s just generically friendly-modern.
Next is “The Ichto Province.” I’ve put that in quotes because “Ichto” is missing a letter somewhere and I can’t figure out if it’s meant to be Ichito or what. Its location doesn’t correspond to any major Japanese city; Fukuyama, more or less. The Ichto Robotics Corporation is an ancient rival of Armatech and when those portions of pre-Rifts Japan returned to Earth, it ended up deciding to go independent rather than join in solidarity against the waves of monsters attacking everything. So these guys might be kinda dicks. Despite calling themselves the Ichto Province they are not a province of anything and are one of those belligerent little independent places--they call it a kingdom again but the government is actually run by the Ichto corporate board.
Alien Rope Burn: Yeah, I can’t make heads or tails of what “Ichto” is supposed to be. It’s not proper Japanese and there are no major locations I can find that the name might have been mangled from.
For all that they’re kind of jerks, Ichto has fairly modern and relaxed laws which permit open immigration and borders with many of their neighbors. They sell techie stuff like cybernetics and juicer implants. To anyone. This has upset the Republic of Japan on more than one occasion because that includes unsavory pirates and monsters or whatever, not that most supernatural creatures can use cyber legs. And more’s the pity!
They argue a lot with the New Empire for obvious reasons, and they don’t suffer hippies gladly in their territory. Security forces will harass and spy on anyone without an iPod. They have a bunch of people in prison on charges related to anti-technological activities, but “only in 15% of cases are the charges true or completely accurate.” I get them jailing dissidents who question the authority of the mighty Ichto Corporation but but apparently criticizing technology is considered insurrection against the government. I guess they don’t have a lot of tech bloggers reviewing new pieces.
Ichto is arrogant enough that they just ignore Otomo and H-brand, two more factions we’ll meet shortly, and for this they are hated in turn.
just you try and sort out the limbs in this picture
Though they are industrial-heavy, Ichto still needs some farming villages and these are apparently back to feudal hand- and animal-powered technologies. Because reasons. :eyeroll: Apparently Ichto Human Resources don’t believe in wasting money on book learnin’ for shitfarmers. I’m sure that will work out well for future food security.
Now, The Otomo Shogunate. 5,400,000 population roughly. About half the population is in the city of Otomo, about 30% are the marvelous new “Eta/D-Bees” category. The Otomo Shogunate is “a strange blend of tradition and magic, with several levels of technology.” Otomo itself was built by survivors of the cataclysm who cobbled together whatever they could to retain their way of life and very survival, rejecting the anti-tech rantings of what would become the New Empire. Of course, they did that, but they also used the Tokugawa as a model for their government because that is Proper Japan according to midwestern white guys. In doing this they naturally chose to use supertech cyber-samurai and made their power armor look like samurai armor instead of more Kevin Long anime-rips.
They conquered (this one at least acknowledges that military dictatorships do not vote new states into their polity) other burgeoning warlord states and slaughtered armies of demons to carve out their little safe haven of feudal supertech warrior heaven. They were doing fairly well for themselves by allying with H-Brand when the Republic of Japan appeared out of the ether and
If they stay on their current course they’re going to destroy or be destroyed by the other human powers in Japan. They’re a brutal dictatorship and “a land of decadence and cruelty” but they are also a stable government that keeps the oni at bay, so it’s going to suck a lot for everyone involved no matter what happens. Obviously they will not be swayed or rethink this course of action.
They are obviously enemies with the New Empire. Given that the New Empire just uses a few highly-trained but fairly squishy magic users and highly-honorable samurai , and the Otomo have power armor and MDC guns they can shove in the hands of conscript soldiers, I would say advantage Otomo. They’re expansionist so they keep trying to bite off pieces of other peoples’ (and demons’) lands and this makes them few friends. They’re not big on green initiatives and they’re the kind of capitalists who chant ‘free market!’ while using slave labor. They’ve made a non-aggression pact with the oni to their north not to retaliate for attacks on human areas controlled by RoJ, Takamatsu and the New Empire while they plan an invasion of the latter. There’s a specific “Note: It is impossible for Otomo to conquer more than a quarter of the New Empire’s territory.” And of course, the oni are totally going to honor their pact while the two big human kingdoms whale on each other.
The Otomo have strained relations with Takamatsu. They were stockpiling supplies until recently, then demanded that Takamatsu break off all relations with the RoJ, which was refused with a ‘pfft’, and now they’re refusing to pay their tab or buy more goods. This seems short-sighted given the resource limitations Japan faces normally. Otomo has been sending a lot of (completely not obvious) cyborg and juicer ninja agents to conduct sabotage in Takamatsu and would really like to bring them down and take their stuff for themselves.
The Republic of Japan remains Otomo’s main rival, and they are much more resistant to the spies and ninja dispatched to try and disrupt their operations. Basically they are The Worst. As mentioned before they hate Ichto because Ichto can’t be bothered with them. If Ichto were to take an interest in Otomo’s actions, it could be an important lever in the course of events. Mostly, the Otomo are engaging in the most obvious treachery imaginable and making the dumbest deals possible to screw over everyone completely when their plan blows up.
H-Brand is an independent power within the Otomo Shogunate (those being something military dictatorships love) with a corporate power structure. They more or less respect the authority and laws of the Otomo, however, being aware of which side their bread is buttered on. They’ve been allies for almost 200 years. Instead, they just get a lot of special economic treatment, tariffs and intimidation against their competitors and government protection from spies and sabotage attempts. I really don’t see why they’re independent, they work hand-in-hand at every turn. Anyway, their own private forces are only 10% smaller than the Shogunate’s (again, this is not something a military government would put up with) and include thousands of borgs, various ninja, cyber-samurai, 4000 power armor troops, 1200 robots and 21 total Glitter Boys in two designs.
i’m not sure why they installed a dryer hose for her neck
H-Brand has never met Naruni Enterprises but they have similar life goals and NE might even offer to buy H-Brand as a wholly-owned subsidiary and make them an official distributor within Japan. As of now, H-Brand is mostly a mercenary-and-arms dealer to basically anyone with cash.
We’ll stop there for now. Next we get into some of the scattered smaller kingdoms and demon-infested areas.
Other Places of NoteOriginal SA post
Eugh. Throwing around the term "Eta" like it's nothing is something I'm not particularly fond of seeing in BattleTech either.
Yeah, when this book was published I don't think it was really common knowledge that 'eta' is a slur, though the research done for this book is not...great. Lumping them together with 'literally not human' is pretty mean no matter what though.
Rifts World Book 8: Japan Part 4: Other Places of Note
The Zone is the domain of the oni and they are apparently not good at names. What few human settlements exist are enslaved by monsters and abused freely. The only upside to the chaos is that the oni, kappa and other demons are not organized--they exist in tribal units who contest each other for territory constantly. Many of these tribes are nomadic, moving through an area until the hunting is depleted, then moving on. I suppose it is somewhat refreshing to see a force of evil that isn't tightly unified and poised for conquest.
dunno why this inkblot is ‘monsterland’ but it is
Once in a while some great monster or warlord might unify the oni tribes enough to come roiling over the mountains at the human kingdoms, but this is rare. Apparently we shall be getting a companion book to Rifts Japan which describes “The ainu (sic), more oni, elementals, gods and supernatural beings.” Perhaps it is available for pre-order.
A few other places are mentioned extremely briefly:
[*]The Domain of the Gods: On Hokkaido, few humans around, but some of the Ainu are still there. Oni, dragons, and Japanese gods also live here. There’s a secret Millennium Tree hidden in a mountain valley.
[*]Surusa is a small feudal kingdom on what was once the Bōsō Peninsula of Tokyo Bay, now an island. They use whatever they can get--Samurai, magic, tech bought mostly from H-brand.
[*]Yukimura is another small shogunate located near Surusa and Tokyo that is more or less a haven for pirates and brigands, but still a human settlement.
[*]Toshiie is a militant shogunate of anti-technologists near Yukimura and they’ve had the New Empire-Otomo fight in miniature for generations.
[*]Other Islands: Japan has a lot of outlying islands and these are mostly untouched and not resettled by humans. A pre-rifts project, the Undersea Naval Platform, has been taken over by Horune pirates.
[*]Sakhalin and the Russian coast: Mostly fishing villages if anything, some pirates and some very low-level industry. These were not exactly friendly coastal regions before the Rifts and they aren’t great now.
this is kind of a cool pic, i am not sure who drew it
[*]Mainland China: This got covered later but it’s listed here as a living nightmare completely dominated by monsters who’ve enslaved everyone because certainly China had no soldiers or industrial base for fighting back when the cataclysm started.
[*]Korea: They noticed Korea exists! Long enough to state that only about 3% of the population survived and live in fishing villages. Supernatural creatures fill the interior wilderness, including ‘faeries, goblins, trolls and elementals.’ One small pocket of interest is a burgeoning kingdom near Seoul, run by a Master Khan, secretly a Chiang-Ku dragon. He’s created a bevy of tattooed monks to defend the kingdom, and teaches enlightenment. That’s more than China got I guess.
[*]Taiwan: Completely destroyed, only repopulated at all recently.
[*]Philippines: The rising of the oceans mostly destroyed this island chain. The US naval presence there was sunk and hasn’t been retrieved, though after three centuries it’s not much more than scrap.
Nothing about the rest of Southeast Asia, but that may be for the best.
Now we get to hear some more about Millennium Trees, specifically the Kyoto Millennium Tree which we heard about back in the New Empire section. A lot of this is repeated from England, describing how Millennium Trees are a thousand feet tall and feed on PPE but not in the way that all those nasty supernatural monsters do, no, they just set their roots on a ley line nexus and get to eating. Shinto priests label the tree as a powerful kami which is not entirely out of character. However, they go on with explaining that the coming of the rifts has proven many of these Shinto beliefs to be true. I mean, this guy is so stuck on the Satanic Panic that he can’t even type the word “Christianity” in an RPG book but he’ll assert that Shinto is validated by the existence of the supernatural? I do not get it but it’s kinda racist.
They call the tree the ‘himorogi’ which Siembieda asserts is “Sacred Tree.” (it’s not) Because Rifts, the tree just popped up in the city of Kyoto, justifying it as an ancient sacred place, and they keep asserting that Kyoto is in the shadow of Mt. Fuji which it is not. Fuji is closer to Tokyo than it is Kyoto and even then it’s not ‘in the shadow of,’ it’s ‘in train distance of’. Shinto priests, Bishamon fighting monks and sohei warriors all live on and near the tree, since it helpfully provides housing on its body. The tree has existed for about 260 years but there aren’t records of its growth, only its existence in its current state. Supposedly it was gifted by the kami, but that’s probably Shinto myth. Nobody can talk to Millennium Trees directly, though they emanate “good vibes” and have been known to send visions of danger to those they deem worthy. The Shinto again describe it as able to hear everything under its branches in all languages which is minor-creepy; I guess folks don’t usually mind if a tree hears them boning.
obligatory postcard, wish we weren’t here
Millennium Trees are able to drop branches and leaves and these are magical items with various powers. These are mostly lame but sometimes useful and detailed in Rifts England. They create really dangerous explosions when people try to harm them, starting at 2d4x10 for one leaf. They also create ley line storms when severely threatened. The trees aid healing to those sleeping nearby, they can regrow limbs and even raised the dead sometimes if people are brought to them swiftly enough. They’re overwhelmingly good things to have around. I’m going to skip listing all the specific items and powers that they have because I did that already in reviewing England and there are no changes in the twelve pages of reprinted content they were kind enough to provide here.
I’ll stop this one here, since next we get into a bunch of Japan-specific magical items by CJ Carella. That has the potential to be kinda cool if still very stereotype-driven.
All the things you could ever want to throwOriginal SA post Rifts World Book 8: Japan Part 5: All the things you could ever want to throw
After we’ve done our whirlwind tour of the major powers of Japan (which are almost entirely independent entities, not even any Splugorth meddling) we are abruptly sent to an equipment section. Usually Palladium books reserve the full gun show for later in the manual, but somehow they felt these were more important to present than all the various flavors of ninja they were promising to the weeaboo fanbase.
“The following items are a handful of magic weapons and equipment that can be acquired by adventurers, warriors and priests in Japan.” Glad to know wizards are out. This section is written by CJ Carella, so it may have a different tone than some other areas of the book. Siembieda seems to have been hovering over Japan protectively as a special magical place where he’s allowed to say the names of real religions so other authors have to get smaller sections with their own bylines.
Elemental Shuriken: Favored by ninja and martial artists. Typically these come in sets of five, representing the five elements. Of course, Siembieda assigns these as “water, fire, earth, air and wood.” That’s wrong but it’s more interesting to look at the mechanical effects assigned.
- Air: 2D6 MDC, 3x per day it can produce a lightning strike when it hits a target for 1D4x10 MDC. The bolt actually comes from holding the shuriken and aiming it rather than throwing, +3 to hit. 1,000 ft thrown range which is pretty high for a thrown object--the world record for a frisbee is 1,257 m but that was distance, not accuracy. 2,000 ft for the lightning.
- Fire: 3D6, plus it shoots fireballs 4x a day for 5D6 MDC. 600ft thrown, 1,000 ft fire balls.
- Water: 3D4 MDC, and can cast the following spells 2x daily: calm storms, heal wounds, negate poisons/toxins. 1,000 ft throwing range in air, 2,000 ft in water.
- Earth: 4D6 MDC and can cast the invulnerability spell 3X per day. Range is listed as ‘self’.
- Wood: 2D4 MDC, triple against vampires. Once per day it can summon a 200 MDC tree elemental with a 3D6 punch. The elemental remains for 1D6 minutes which is an eternity in Palladium time.
These don’t automatically return when thrown, and given their effects, throwing them seems like a quick way to lose a 700,000 credit investment. These are kinda cool, not wildly unbalanced, but you’re basically going to have to kill someone and take them, there’s no way for normal PCs to meet that price.
TW Power Shuriken: I’m envisioning like some kinda magic buzzsaw here. “A common Chinese techno-wizard item.” This is getting better and better. 2D4+4 MDC as a single-use electrical attack. 500 credits per. These are both too expensive and too weak to bother using. The New Empire's stance on TW items wasn't made entirely clear but I imagine if they mimic an old-timey cosplay item they're probably okay.
TW Fire-Breathing Apparatus: The fluff text for this is just really weird, I think I’m just going to reproduce it here:
When the first European travelers arrived in Japan, they brought muskets and arquebuses (bell-shaped, short-range shotguns), which greatly impressed the islanders. Japan was manufacturing copies of these weapons in a matter of years.
Japanese alchemists, eta techno-wizards and tech-ninja became fascinated with the concept of firearms. They tried to replicate the effect using magic, and succeeded in creating an equivalent weapon by binding fire elementals to metal replicas of the European weapons; this may have been one of the first techno-wizard weapons ever created! During the Great Cataclysm, these weapons became powerful mega-damage “guns”...
There is just so much wrong here. With real world history, with Rifts’ own continuity, with the assumptions it makes about Japanese technological progress. I do not know where to begin and Carella, I expect better from you. Also: ‘TW Fire-Breathing Apparatus’ is a dumb name.
These things look like matchlock muskets or whatever and they belch out fire blasts that stink of brimstone. 5D6 MDC, 800 ft range. Unlike many other TW weapons, these guys fire 3X a round as long as Earth has magical energy. If they didn’t cost ‘upwards of 200,000 credits’ they’d be a perfectly valid thing to give any PC. The lack of ammo worries is their big advantage, but their damage is so thoroughly average and their range so short that I can’t bring myself to be concerned.
Magic Powder Grenades: These are elite grenades for elite ninja. They’re based on the notion of eggshell bombs but rigged with spells to make them more potent.
- Blinding: Blinds anything in a 10ft radius with a 16 save for 1D6 minutes. 500 credits. These are a much, much better investment than not-cheap Chinese TW shuriken.
- Confusion: Works as the spell Wisps of Confusion around its target area, affects 1-8 people with a save vs. magic as per the spell at 4th level which means it lasts 20 melee rounds. All affected persons are -5 to all the things and lose half their actions. The save is listed as ‘Standard’ which can be anything from 12-15. Rifts. Also these cost 3000 credits each, and are slightly less good than the blinding ones--the blinders don’t take away actions but they have a harder save and worse penalty. Also, the ‘wisps’ probably fail against the filtration systems on almost all armor and power armor.
- Minor Curse: ‘As per the spell.’ Helpfully, this spell is not in the Ultimate Edition. 6000 credits for ‘??’
- Magic Net: Unlike the spell, this only snares the nearest target, but the net is still 16 or better to dodge and takes two rounds to escape during which time the target is helpless. That’s two rounds with any mega-damage weapon or magic besides Dispel Magic. 4000 credits, don’t miss.
There’s an additional note that the prices may vary as much as 10% less to 50% more since they’re made by random artisanal mages and dragons rather than an assembly line I guess. At their standard prices these are not fantastic except for the blinding ones, but they are fairly strong debuffs.
Singing Arrows (Nari-Kabura): In the past, Japanese archers sometimes used hollow arrows that would make a buzzing or whistling sound as they flew. These were used a signals and startles. Now some are enchanted to be magical also. They shatter after being fired and discharging their magic, and all are 16 or higher to save and count as 5th level.
- Terror: Produces fear in 100 ft radius. 2,000 credits.
- Exorcism: 100ft radius. Save or stun for 1D4 rounds, lesser demons and ghosts are evicted from their hosts, and greater possessions are immediately revealed as a flash of their true form. Pretty useful, since there are so few countermeasures to things like Alien Intelligence possession. 4,000 credits.
- Enticing Beauty: Good lord, not more Cupid crap. Oh, okay, it just creates a pied-piperish haunting flute music with again 100ft radius. Those affected must stop and listen and lose all actions unless they are attacked. ‘Prowling around’ (sneaking, in Palladium speak) entranced targets is automatic. This lasts I guess for one round? Even after the arrow is gone, they’re still at -2 for 1D6 rounds. 3,000 credits.
- Agony: Kind of the reverse of the Beauty arrow, the shrieking whistle is painful to hear. 100ft radius Agony spell. 6,000 credits.
Again, all fairly decent, all very expensive. The Exorcism one in particular needs to be cheaper.
Tanto of Hellish Poison: Elite ninja only, this special poison can affect even dragons and supernatural creatures. 3D6 SDC to normals, 4D6 MDC to supernaturals and even artificial stuff like borg armor is affected. If flesh is touched, a save of 15 or higher is needed. On a successful save, 3D6 more damage still happens, directly to hit points or MDC. On a failed save, take the damage, -2 to combat rolls, lose one attack for 1D6+2 hours. Each hour, 1D6 additional damage is done, plus the victim temporarily loses 1D4 points of PE. If it hits zero, they die. Various forms of supernatural regen cannot heal the poison damage until its effects end.
Those are some pretty huge effects. For one thing, affecting supernatural creatures at all is pretty big--almost every single one of those is immune. The poison effects don’t do enough damage to kill quickly, and it’s not clear if the applications stack. They’d need to, if this thing is meant to kill anything more serious than an average joe, but who knows. Because these weapons are actually effective, most good guys consider them perpetually tainted and won’t use them, and they cost as much as a rune weapon at eight million credits anyway. Still, this is kind of cool, and again, not immensely overpowered (depending on the stacking issue) but quite vicious.
”Ten-Thousand-Strength” Nunchaku: “These were enchanted by Okinawan mystics in the years before the Rifts.” Several of these items suggest themselves as pre-Rifts. That’s kind of a major continuity violation and also not something that was suggested about the various European cultures who had mystical traditions. If magic actually worked to any degree pre-Rifts, the Japanese would not be the only ones who remembered it. I mean, Native Americans, duh.
this section doesn’t have enough pictures, so here is some numbchuks
Anyway, these do 3D6 MDC per hit and grant one additional melee attack per round. These are pretty rare, it’d be a shame if say an Apok or something got hold of these and made them terrifying wouldn’t it? 500,000 credits.
Whirlwind Naginata: Created for the highest female samurai, and sohei monks like ‘em too. Only a few dozen in existence. 3D6+6 MDC, and it has two special powers: Art of Defense, which, if a character makes no attacks in a round, will auto-parry any non-laser attacks against themselves except for criticals, up to their melee total, and Whirlwind: Four times a day, the wielder can call upon a magical whirlwind by spinning the naginata overhead for two melees. This whirlwind can fly them up to 60mph and deflects all arrows and thrown weapons, but not bullets or lasers. Five minute duration. Five million credits. These are kind of nice but totally not worth five mil, c’mon.
Zen Master’s Bow: Longbows of the Japanese type, intended for Zen archery. Only a few dozen of the lesser types exist, and maybe a dozen of the greater. They appear ordinary unless one is ‘knowledgeable of Japanese arts’ at which point they have a 30% + 5% per level of realizing these are yet another example of the magical Japanese pre-Rifts tradition. When wielded by a user of the Art of Bowmanship (Kyudo) the bow contacts the wielder (by courier?) and instructs them on its powers. For everybody else it has some piddling bonuses and does SDC damage.
In proper hands, lesser bows have two of the following, greater have all:
- +2 to strike
- Closing one’s eyes and drawing the bow allows the sensing of invisible creatures, including those pesky ninja.
- Spending 1 PPE per arrow, they can do mega-damage to any mega-damage creature, double to supernaturals--2D6 though.
- 5 PPE doubles rate of fire for one round
- 10 PPE per round allows arrows to “fly through tiny openings, twist through the air and fly around corners and other cover to strike hidden enemies, provided the shooter knows where the target is.” That’s very nice but provides literally no actual mechanical benefit. I guess it ignores cover?
These are basically unobtainable with money, aside from the fact that they look like normal SDC weapons which any sensible person in the world of Rifts would discard. I can’t see it. They’re fancy but really quite weak. Doubling one’s rate of fire is useful, but it also doubles the PPE cost of shooting arrows, and most human users don’t have that much. True samurai would get a frightening rate of fire with one of these but they’d be out of PPE or chewing through magical arrows very quickly.
After this there's a section of just magic samurai swords. I honestly like a lot of these items--they have varied effects and they aren't super-powerful. Of course, being ~magic~, they're unobtainably expensive so railguns it is. What I don't like in this section (and in the upcoming swords part) is the suggestion that some of these items were enchanted before the time of Rifts. Nobody else got to do that, and there were plenty of other mystical traditions that survived into the modern era in one form or another. Fetishizing Japan as a spiritual wonderland that preserved its traditions unblemished by magic-ruining western rational thought is dumb and racist and also absurd if you've ever been there or even studied the country closely.
Magic Katana Section GoOriginal SA post Rifts World Book 8: Japan Part 6: Magic Katana Section Go
Greater and Greatest Daisho Rune Swords: Here we go, magic katanas. Perfect for hanging on the wall where guests can see them, just like the katanas of yore. Of course, how the Japanese swordsmiths learned rune magic is an exercise left to the reader. Seriously, it’s not explained. For as much as the line has made a huge deal out of anybody having rune magic, this is kind of a serious omission. I think Carella is just using 'rune swords' here as Rifts-speak for 'very powerful magical item' but that's lazy, and in a system that was happy to make up a whole new system of magic about building pyramids I feel like they could cobble together a new poorly-translated term.
There’s a few different kinds of these. We start with the Daisho of the Relentless Warrior. These swords have white scabbards and handles with a dragon pattern inlaid in gold and jade for the dragon’s eyes. It was forged in the 16th century by a legendary swordsmith. I need a ‘teeth grind’ emoji but will have to do. Supposedly it only appears to be wielded by the greatest champions of Japan and was last seen about ten years ago.
What does it do?
- All the qualities of the mystic daisho (explained under the true samurai OCC later on)
- Principled Alignment
- 1D6x10 MDC and they ‘always inflict mega-damage’ so these are swords that reduce normal humans and most buildings to a fine mist.
- Relentless Strength: 3x per day they can raise their strength by 10 and make it supernatural, and their SDC and hit points are doubled and become MDC. This lasts for two minutes and they glow with a green aura while it’s active. There were some pretty explicit rules in Conversion that strength never adds to MDC melee damage IIRC so the useful part of this is the MDC conversion.
- They can also heal the wielder for 3D6+3, three times a day.
That is a pretty strong set of weapons, leaving aside the noble-Japanese-savage origins of the thing. Having it appear to a worthy champion is an obvious hook. The damage is comparable to a regular railgun and since they're indestructible they can parry MDC attacks. The strength and healing aspects are really minor, honestly, though a physically-trained human will have a reasonable amount of SDC, and having that as MDC even briefly could be a lifesaver. Two minutes is eight agonizing rounds of Palladium combat after all.
Daisho of the Storm: Ten sets of these were made. They were dedicated to the terrifying weather events that have plagued Japan throughout its history. They didn’t become magic until the rifts arrived in this case, making them at least make sense in what few ways Rifts cosmology ever does. The whereabouts of three of the sets are known, two belonging to direct descendants of the swords’ original owners in the New Empire. Okay, that is immensely unlikely. The third belongs to a shifty ronin. The rest are currently lost.
What do they do?
- 1D4x10 with the katana to supernaturals, 3D6 to anything else. 5D6/3D6 from the wakizashi.
- Call of the Storm: 3x daily, by ‘swinging the swords around’ the warrior can generate a storm with a 500ft radius for one minute per level of the wielder. Each round they can direct a lightning bolt, gust of wind, and blinding downpour at specific targets--each counts as a melee attack. The gust will just straight up knock down or tip over anything weighing less than two tons, no save. The lightning has a 1,000 ft range at 4D6 MD damage, no roll to hit I guess. The rain will blind and distract with -4 penalties for 1D4 rounds and visibility is reduced to 10ft. Again, no save.
So that’s fairly nice too. The wind and rain powers are pretty immense actually, coupled with the swords’ decent damage to supernatural enemies.
Ghostly Katana of Soul Slaying: Specifically katana, no wakizashi were made. They were created by a “Hideo the Mad,” a legendary sorcerer, swordsman and sword-maker. Not historical as far as I can tell. Supposedly he rolled with demons in his youth, but straightened up to become a good guy later in life. The katanas themselves are made with “Soulstuff,” a new and especially ~mystical~ alloy distilled from the life force of living beings. Hideo made all four swords basically simultaneously and then at the end seemed pulled in four directions into the blades themselves. Okay, that’s cool. This is when the book specifically mentions this is magical technology from Wormwood. All of this occurred pre-Rifts of course.
Anyway the swords look normal until they’re used in a fight, then they go all transparent and spooky. They pierce armor, strike supernatural and devastate the undead, so much so that vampires have supposedly hidden two of them. Somewhere in Mexico I guess? It’s also possible that antique dealers bought one or two of the swords and took them specifically to Chicago. How that came to be recorded is unclear. They can also hit insubstantial beings including alien intelligences in energy form.
[*]1D4x10 to supernatural, 2D4x10 to vampires, 6D6 SDC to beings that contain so little blood.
[*]Ghost blade: This blade ignores all armor, including power armor, force fields, and other barriers to inflict damage directly to the body of the wearer. It says it does not pierce robots or vehicles, so I am not sure if it just plinks off those or what.
[*]Sense Evil: Presence sense, sense magic and sense evil within 30 ft per level.
Piercing armor is pretty amazing, though 6D6 SDC damage is less than one thinks against an optimized character. And Wormwood? Mostly with all of these supermagic swords they have tried to tie them into Japan’s super magical history because, you know, Europe never had any magic swords. Rifts has always struggled with grabbing onto entirely arbitrary bits of the past and holding onto them but it gets a bit extreme here. The swords themselves are neat in terms of their effects, though of course they are super-double mega Yu-Gi-Oh rare so melee characters should not hope to get one and do damage comparable to a small railgun.
We finish with swords and go on to more “Magical Items" that somehow couldn't have been in the other section of magical items before the sword section.
First is the Bottomless Purse (kanebukoro): These are magic purses meant to supply worthy travelers with basic necessities, but the greedy who might exploit such a thing are always foiled by their magics.
Three varieties exist, producing one or a few items: Money, which gives old-school silver coins worth 2d6 credits each, ten times a day. Rice cakes and similar bland but nourishing foods four times a day, for one person. The last is the purse of wishes, which can grant any small ordinary object wished for, from food and drink to a “grappling hook or a sword.” It only works three times a day, and can produce food, 1D6x100 credits (worth more than food), and small mundane items that are specifically not bullets. Well, it doesn’t say ‘not bullets’, it does say no energy weapons or magic weapons or alien tech, so probably not mini-missiles anyway, but railgun ammo might be okay.
In addition to the daily use limits, anything not used by the end of the day disappears. Trying to get around the limitations of the purse supposedly leads to curses, with a note to GMs to screw over players who try to pull a fast one with their rice cake purse. The purses only work for those they’re given to--they can be freely passed on, but if stolen they won’t work.
Fan of the Forest Wind: A fan that when waved about creates breezes and floating leaves, kind of scenic and cool until you do it for a full round at which point there are so many damn leaves that the wielder and others in the area are -5 to hit. Also makes a mess. 50K credits.
Hat of Invisibility (kakuregasa): I’m including Palladium’s supplied Japanese names for items since they included them, I'm not generally checking them for accuracy. Anyway this looks like a straw hat, sometimes the conical sort, others the face-basket sorts of things that monks sometimes wear. Six times per day the hat makes the wearer invisible for up to an hour. No listing on limitations about attacking, or how hard it is to hit this particular kind of invisibility since they all get their own rules. 30 to 100K.
Heavenly Speaking Flute (ame-no-nori-goto): A mundane looking flute which can play three special tunes, three times a day, for up to an hour each. I hope your lips are strong.
Song of Heavenly Senses: Can see all manner of invisible jerks including energy creatures and presumably even those 4th dimensional assholes. Can sense ley lines and such within 5 miles, and sense evil to 60 ft.
Song of Spiritual Comfort: This is a song that pleases good spirits and pains bad ones. Good thing we have alignment so we know which is which. 50-50 effect for ‘selfish’. Good spirits will often reward characters in some way for an hour of music. Bad ones must save or flee (14 or higher) and even if they remain they’re at half everything within 300 ft or hearing range.
Song of Summoning or Banishing: Makes an attempt to summon or banish an entity of choice, the entity gets to save versus 16 or higher. Other exorcisms performed while the music plays get +20%. There is no mention of being able to control a summoned entity so ah, use with care?
These only work for good-aligned characters, though ‘unprincipled and aberrant characters who have vowed to fight demons have a 50% chance to ever use a flute’. The item itself is fairly neat--specific focus, limited effects, and useful against some of the nastier annoyances in the game. Of course, it does require someone to be the flute guy while everyone else does stuff. 50-100K
Holy Incense Burner: A special incense burner that uses specially treated anti-spirit incenses. It creates a 30ft cloud that requires a save against 16 or higher for the targeted type. Those that do enter take 1D6 damage per round and are at -2. 30 ft is not a very wide radius against spell-casting fire-breathing gun-toting supernaturals, but it’s something. These target specific ‘families’ of beings like Oni and Demons, Ghosts and Spirits, etc. Trying to buy one is a real bitch too, being ‘at least’ 200,000 credits and the incense packets are 1200-1800 each. I’d give it a pass probably.
Lantern of Protection: Can be lit for 24 hours total usage. Evil supernaturals must save vs. Psionics (no DC listed) to approach within 20 ft and they’re at half of all things if they do approach. Also +3 to save vs. supernatural to all non-targets within 20ft. The big limitation on these is that they have 12 SDC, being paper lanterns, and they wear out. 50-200 credits though, so worth keeping a few around.
Living Kami Statues (kiagan-kuyo): These are masterwork statues that they can be animated by the god or spirit represented for a short period of time. Hundreds of these were built up over Japan’s history, and enough of them survived that they are now fairly common guardians, especially of temples. Their stats range from 1D4x10 MDC with 1D4 MD damage (death kitten) to big ole war buddhas with 1D4x100 MDC and supernatural PS damage + 2D6 with a weapon. A recommended method for trying to discover these in a ruin is to try and shatter any statue with a hammer since these are all MDC and normal statues are not. Archeology Jeebus will cry though. 50K to 500K by size, and they’re basically golems that will deactivate if asked to do evil.
Mirror of True-Seeing: Small hand mirrors. Six times per day it can be tilted to show an image of a person. The reflection will show their true nature, including shapeshiftedness, possession, but also alignment (check them renegade scars), disease and mental health. 200K - 400K because mental health funding is very poor in Rifts Earth.
Powder of the Heavenly Winds: We’re skipping the part where it tries to discuss the history of the word ‘kamikaze’ here. A bunch of air elemental charms are written on scrolls which are ground into powder. When some of this powder is tossed in the air, the tosser can control winds of up to 200mph for 1D6+2 minutes. This will knock down most characters under 15 tons, no save apparently. Once per round they can shoot a cutting blast that does 3D6 MDC or 4D6 SDC per minute to such vulnerable things. This is extremely destructive to weak materials, fortunately it’s rare and one-use; 200-400K.
And lastly, Tattoos of Strength: Yakuza magic tattoos. Not the same as Tattoo Magic (proper noun) but a similar sort of idea. Three times per day, they can be activated, making the tattoo glow greenishly and granting PEx3 MDC (cumulative with other sources apparently) and +6 to PS which becomes supernatural. There’s no listed duration, so assuming the wearer doesn’t outright die from exhausting their little MDC boost, it’s a three shot force field. They count as a supernatural being though, so take extra from basically every weapon in this section plus special twigs. 60K for a suit and probably better be part of a gang.
That was a longer section than I anticipated. A longer section of just magic items than we’ve seen in almost every other book it feels like. A lot of them have kind of interesting effects, though they’re saddled with Rifts’ completely insane concept of pricing. How dare PCs want a magical weapon or a flute that dispels ghosts. They’re also often a continuity disaster, but w’ev at this point. I honestly wish Rifts had more interesting magical weapons and equipment--what's presented is often very weak and sterile, and always impossibly expensive.
Are you a pure enough dude to be a samurai?Original SA post Rifts World Book 8: Japan Part 7: Are you a pure enough dude to be a samurai?
Now we get to the first set of OCCs, the ‘Traditionals’. These are all fairly original to this book, even stuff like the “Mystic Ninja” which could have leapt straight from the pages of Ninjas & Superspies. They’re also...questionably accurate as one might expect. The “True Samurai” in particular is going to get a lot of tiresome dry-humping but we’ll do the best we can.
The True Samurai opens the section, and does so with a quote from a passable history book from the 80s.
”Stephen R Turnbull, Book of the Samurai: The Warrior Class of Japan” posted:
Few countries have a warrior tradition as long and as exciting as that of Japan. It is a tradition found particularly in the person of the romantic, loyal, and self-sacrificing knight of old Japan, the samurai. He is the valiant lone swordsman, the ultimate individual warrior. He is the esthete, appreciating in the beauty of cherry blossom, and seeing its brief career his own short and glorious life. He is the commander of a host on the battlefield, the assassin in the night, the keeper of peace, the aristocratic administrator and the avenger of his master.
At various times in Japanese history the samurai fulfilled all these roles.
This is kinda shoddy history writing but it’s thirty years old from a guy who at least earned a PhD in the area. Of course, Asian Studies people turn a very jaundiced eye to their orientalist forebears. But either way, this quote does contain some of the many ways the samurai is romanticized and portrayed. The varying realities of poverty and brutality will probably go unaddressed.
Since a large section of Japan’s survivors ditched modern technology and democracy in favor of ‘nothing’ and ‘Tokugawa cosplay’, there is a samurai caste again. Samurai family and clans “can trace their lineage over 200 years,” with some going back before the coming of the rifts. Seriously, they didn’t even bother addressing this in England and here it’s just dumb. Samurai caste people are landowners, scientists and engineers (in this anti-tech society) as well as the traditional military governor/defender jobs. They’re legally allowed to carry weapons, which other citizen castes are not. Non-citizen travelers are allowed to keep weapons but advised to keep them covered.
As with so many western portrayals of samurai, this class is very fixated on the swords over the bow, but it does acknowledge that they use archery as well. We haven’t gotten to the part yet where they explain how mundane arrows hurt MDC Oni. They’ve also brought back the topknot hairstyles of the past to signify status.
No section on an honorable warrior stereotype in a Palladium book would be complete without an extended code of honor section. Yep, we get a long list of bushido code rules. I’m not going to analyze these because they are tedious as hell and the modern conception of bushido is entirely made-up bullshit from the 19th century. The full history of the concept is much more complicated than that and somebody else (I know you fuckers know this) can do an effortpost about it if they want. Let’s just say that Kev-chan’s Simplified List of Rules is inaccurate and the text also treats this very exacting code as something most if not all True Samurai actually adhere to versus “something that was presented as a good idea but wasn’t really followed that much” like actual chivalric codes. Now, Siembieda did this same thing with the knights in England and at least one of the knightly orders in Wormwood and probably someplace else I’m forgetting where that stupid chivalry list was reprinted, but it remains dumb. L5R has shown us a more nuanced (a little bit anyway) examination of a strict honor-based society and it has huge extensive rules for fighting about honor and dealing with all the little rules involved and also explores the many, many ways that these codes are interpreted or broken by members of that society. This text does none of these things.
After the bushido stuff we get some real talk about the specialness of “true” samurai swords, which apparently all “true” samurai have--I don’t know why this section starts putting the “true” in quotes, maybe Carella slipped some sarcasm through KS’s serious-screen. The swords themselves are “minor rune weapons” (those are my quotes) which has the problems mentioned previously with every other source in Rifts cosmology presenting rune-anything as vanishingly rare and hard to create.
These swords are made with the famous “folding” method that worked the blade 400 times. These special swords are folded 1000 times! ...Which as I understand it actually would spoil the metal, the 400-range was actually specific and not the smith going ‘welp’. “True” swords though, after all that folding, must be tested by chopping off all limbs and the head from a live person, generally a criminal. Oh, it’s okay though, because 80% are “volunteers.”
These swords, once fed the blood of a criminal, are slightly intelligent and linked to their master, nearly indestructible (and regenerate), and inflict a heaping 6D6/4D6 MDC for katana and wakizashi respectively, against supernatural beings. SDC against mortals. Does that include mortals in power armor? Because I’d consider that a downside. They don’t even do extra damage against vampires, and even twigs from a Millennium Tree do extra damage on vampires. You do get a +1 bonus to all saving throws though. Also, if the samurai is of incompatible alignment to the swords, they do half damage. Most of these swords are some variety of Palladium-good despite harboring the soul of a criminal. Oh, there’s a note that 1 in 4 of the samurai and the swords themselves are anarchist or evil--that must be an awkward matching process. “I’ll take the set that’s weeping blood and growling please.”
The samurai is also gifted with a suit of magical samurai-lookin’ armor that can be crafted in special magic ceremonies (for which we do not receive rules for once), gifted by the gods (what), captured from oni, or occasionally granted by monks who make them out of Millennium Tree bark. They typically have 100 MDC but up to 180 MDC is possible but ‘uncommon’, and they are not environmentally sealed so all those nasty chemical weapons Coalition grunts can ignore will totally take out these elite warriors.
Samurai also receive multiple skill-based abilities like a 54% chance (+4% per level!) to ride a horse and shoot an arrow at the same time. The very next entry is “bowmanship” which allows a samurai to ride and shoot “without penalty.” As far as I can recall there isn’t anywhere that gives penalties for riding and shooting. Samurai are at a ‘mere’ -2 to dodge arrows and -4 for energy blasts, and can fire 3 arrows a round at level one, +2 at level three, and +1 more at 4, 6, 9 and 12. That is a fair number of arrows, which might be useful if they’re magic or something.
Swordsmanship gets its own section and declares that true samurai are master swordsmen and study Zen. They get +1 on init, +3 to pull their strikes and one additional attack when using the paired swords. They also get a “Chi M.D. Death Blow” which is just such a delightfully awkward phrasing. This attack is used by samurai and some other folks to inflict mega-damage with a melee or hand-to-hand attack and you kick a monster so hard it can’t heal the damage for 1D4 hours. It cannot be used in anger (bah) and must be used without regret for one’s action of using it. Takes two attacks, won’t work on techfoes, just supernaturals, samurai cannot expend their immense rate of bow fire with it, and never states how much damage it actually does or how much PPE it costs. Instead we learn that samurai also carry an iron fan around with them for use with their teeth I guess since their hands are full of swords and can be used for parrying. “It also functions as a fan.”
pretty sure i saw this in a museum somewhere
We still haven’t reached the actual normal statblock area for the true samurai class. Instead we’re going to have some more special training in the form of “zanji shinjinken-ryu” which is something that Siembieda heard somewhere as the name of samurai sword training. I don’t care enough to even look this up. Anyway, it’s a sword methodology that survived the time of rifts and is designed to kill! emphasis theirs. I guess this is a long and complicated form of WP: samurai swords, it grants miscellaneous bonuses including +2 to PP still more bonii to using the paired swords in addition to the ones already given. Each level includes a new special bonus but not all the explanations are reprinted from Ninjas & Superspies, like the bonus for level 9 which is “Death Blow!”, end of entry.
Alien Rope Burn: ”Zanji Shinjinken-Ryu” is from Erick Wujcik’s Palladium game Ninjas & Superspies and is almost certainly a fictional concoction, given the only references I can find to it link back to Palladium sites (or bullshido sites that literally stole from N&S’ martial arts listings ). To be fair, a number of the martial arts in that game are intentionally fictional - like Dog Style Kung Fu (fight on all fours) or Taido (battle twirling) - but “Zanji Shinjinken-Ryu” is a mess of broken Japanese. It’s probably meant to be something like “Lightning Divine Sword Dragon” but “Slightly Delayed Newbie Coupon Dragon” would be a far more accurate translation.
After this we get a “Samurai family background” table. Rolling 1-10 gets you one of the coveted pre-rifts daisho sets because your family traces its line back that far. All of them grant three skill choices in various areas, some of which are “choose anything from physical or wilderness” which experienced Palladium players will recognize as “choose Acrobatics and Gymnastics and Boxing” while others are “choose anything from medical or science in this agrarian anti-tech community” so clearly not all outcomes are equal, even aside from social status.
Finally we get the stats. 33% principled, 16% scrupulous, 33% aberrant, 8% anarchist and 10% “other.” They get skill selections more or less in line with what one would expect, their special magic swords and armor, “samurai silks”, several changes of kimono (specifically mentioned), sandals, a utility belt (bat-samurai) and other basic gear including a good horse. They also get a bow with 20 normal arrows, 6 silver-tipped arrows, and 6 magic arrows of unspecified type, plus two extra weapons of choice as long as they aren’t magical. 3D4x1000 credits in valuables + 1D4x1000 in a monthly stipend, this being one of the rare occasions when PCs with a steady job are told how much they are paid. Also 20% of all booty gained goes to the daimyo, 20% to the Empire and 20% to the family, but hey, free meals.
praise the rising sun
As ever with any class that’s even vaguely mystical, they refuse cybernetics, though as normal humans they wouldn’t experience penalties for using them and most of their powers don’t need PPE.
Lastly there’s a small note that female samurai are taught kendo instead of zanji-whatever and get PPE x3 instead of x2 and notes that most female fighting samurai arise out of vengeance but some are just born warriors. Kendo is detailed in the back in a separate martial arts section.
That’s it for the true samurai class, and that was a whole lot of It’s not like it’s a surprise, weeaboo sentiments didn’t just originate recently, but I forgot how much the book gushed on this topic.
Next time: The samurai’s dark other, the Ronin! Will they get dicked around as much as in L5R?!
Lonely grizzled wanderers looking to challenge warlord please use rear doorOriginal SA post Rifts World Book 8: Japan Part 8: Lonely grizzled wanderers looking to challenge warlord please use rear door
Ronin are masterless samurai. These only occur when a daimyo is slain, we are told, since the new daimyo won’t hire any of the old guy’s guys and nobody else wants a samurai who let his boss die so they go rogue until they maybe get lucky and overcome discrimination against the unemployed to find a new home. Also, ronin occasionally quit for various reasons, the ole ‘can’t obey a tyrant’ being the most popular. Now, we were told earlier that the New Empire has eight total daimyo. So like, killing one would be a big deal and put a substantial part of their armed forces out of work. If that happens at all often there must be a lot of ronin around.
lone wolves for nixon
Sometimes they get work as mercenaries to do things the daimyo don’t want to admit to doing but need somebody to do anyway, and other principalities in the region care a lot less about all of this crap so they might seek their fortune elsewhere.
Alignment-wise they discard their high principles once they get laid off apparently as the majority are unprincipled, anarchist or evil. They get the same skills as the true-sams but have a 50% chance of being able to gain new technological skills as they loosen their anti-tech stance. They basically get all the stuff that the regular samurai get, including the groovy swords, but they have no steady income or shelter and they tend to not like guns much even after stepping out of their comfort zone.
All in all they aren’t at too great a disadvantage--they lack the social support an employed samurai would have but they aren’t mechanically penalized in any significant way.
Alien Rope Burn: I have to say I legit like the ronin art probably the most of any art piece in the book, because it’s one of the few that looks like a post-apocalypse survivor character. While it makes some sense with the premise, the fact that Japan is all just remarkably clean feudal citizens and cyberpunk guys is relatively dull visually. It doesn’t hurt that it’s one of a few pieces in the book by “rk” Post, a great artist probably best known for his work on Planescape and Magic: the Gathering.
The Mystic Ninja is next up.
Rifts Japan posted:
In medieval Japan, before the Great Cataclysm, the ninja clans came into being as a direct response to the military society of the shogun and the samurai.
Yes, the ninja, the magical People’s avenger. continue about how the samurai of old existed as much to keep the peasants in line as anything (with their principled alignments) and the ninja were peasants who developed combat skills that could be hidden under the noses of their sworded masters. The truth is that historically we know very, very little about actual ‘ninja’ but some of them at least were samurai-class and they more or less faded from existence once the Sengoku era ended (1603) leaving few traces behind. The mythological history is more fun for an RPG however, so we’ll go with that, and here we have another pre-rifts mystical tradition that Japan has carefully preserved when all other nations somehow lost their occult heritage.
Rifts ninja are split into the genin-chunin-jonin hierarchy and care only about completing their mission--killing is not required, but certainly not forbidden as long as it is in line with the work. Being captured does not require suicide unless the mission would otherwise be fully compromised; most ninja have false identities and move freely among the eta and others who work below polite society’s radar. The game also advises allowing a ninja player to conceal their actual OCC from the rest of the group and pretend to be a monk or ronin or something, party secrets always work well right. Or they can be openly ninjish, being all black-clad and face covered. I like that second one better because it’s so ridiculous--’hey weren’t there seven of you?’ ‘look in the corner’ ‘oh, right, i should move that gardenia’. Of course, either way the ninja player is going to have a secret mission that might cause party conflict. Failing to do their mission means ninja vengeance, which is surprisingly harsher than samurai get for going ronin--the samurai just gets walking papers, the ninja gets hunted down.
see? intra-party conflict
In return for accepting the shuriken, ninja get some powers of course. They can temporarily convert themselves to mega-damage, though their punches and kicks still do SDC. Three minutes per level, costs 35 PPE. They...also get to choose powers from the Art of Stealth every three levels. These are explained at the end of the book. The Art of Escape allows the ninja PC to learn self-dislocation of joints to squeeze into and out of things they have no business doing, plus knowing about knot-tying like good ninja scouts, and concealing small things. In 1D4 rounds they can escape from handcuffs, locked chains, ropes, or zipties automatically with no roll. Straightjackets and such take 1D4 rounds and a successful skill roll starting from 46%. This art also lets characters escape melee holds in one action and joint locks in a full round.
Mystic ninja are also psionic because of course they are. They get bio-regeneration and induce sleep, and gets one power from the physical category per level starting from 2, plus psi-sword at level 6. It’s not clear from the text if it starts out at full level 6 damage or not, I’d assume yes.
Since samurai get the way of the horse and the bow, the ninja get their own version. Their riding skill is identical, but they use a special shortbow and lose their bonuses to strike and halve rate of fire when shooting while moving or off-balance, they can’t even roll under skill like the samurai to keep it. They get some dodging, -3 to arrows and -6 to bullets and lasers. They shoot arrows a bit more slowly, two at level one and a more stately progression after that.
They also get two false identities they can assume, and it doesn’t specify which nation these are in--a lot of the assumptions here seem to suggest the ninja would be operating in the New Empire exclusively but I don’t see why they would, the government would want them going after enemies. They start out with 1D4x10+PE in PPE, which has a decent chance of leaving them without enough to do their mega-damage transform at first level and they’re specifically barred from using ley lines and other methods for bonus energy which the samurai are not.
Of course, since samurai get their fancy arts, ninja need some of that action and so we get tai-jutsu. This adds some bonuses to attributes, and gives hand-to-hand attacks that do some minimal damage, SDC of course. Death blow! makes a return, and the stat raises are comparable to the samurai bonii and give more impact to gaining levels than usual for martial characters. Of course only Asian fighters can have such power.
For the rest of CG stuff, ninja can be of any alignment, PP of 14 or higher is required which severely limits the non-cheaters who can qualify for this class, and it offers a fairly wide selection of skills--including the forbidden tech/medical/science skills that the New Empire is supposed to reject, though they “stick to ancient weapons” because magical ninja honor I guess.
They get rubber-soled tabi boots though, two pairs. Technology!! Also a bunch of disguises (I’m envisioning a selection of hilarious mustaches, even for the women), one (1) set of nondescript peasantish clothing, and a black or camo-colored ninja outfit. Weapons-wise they get 12 shuriken, two ancient weapons, a vibro-blade and 1D4 ‘Ninja emergency kits’ to be detailed later. The mystic ninja is flexible enough to use technology to some degree though they don’t rely on it heavily--it would start sticking out. Like, for instance, rubber-soled shoes. 2D6x100 starting credits means they won’t be loading up on too many hi-tech toys to start with.
Now we get an extended section on ninja equipment. This is just a listing of mundane versions of all the stuff ninja are supposed to get in their semi-plausible historical versions. Uniform, ‘emergency kits’ with smoke bombs and survival stuff, hang glider, climbing claws and spikes, still more heavily specialized climbing tools, caltrops. Most notable is the mundane eggshell bomb--save vs non-lethal poison (16 or higher) or be at -6 for an unspecified duration. A lot of creatures and people in armor will be immune to this, but not the samurai who are specifically not in a sealed suit. At 35 credits, you can just chuck these things around pretty freely.
Ninja gimmick clothing gets its own special section to tell us about how they can have concealed SDC armor, concealed pockets, concealed tools, expanding belts, fake stage blood packs (for whatever reason), reversible clothes, and shoe bomb compartments. This looks like a reprint from Ninjas & Superspies but it’s been too long for me to say for sure.
The ninja couldn’t stand up to the samurai in a fair fight and that seems as it should be. Given the psychic and magical powers at work in the world, I’m not sure their stealth abilities are all they’re cracked up to be if they’re just minor conversions of N&S material, and they probably are. With the suggestion of fermenting conflict with the ninja’s secret mission and the tedium that is having to run separate stealth missions for one player, I can’t recommend people play these. As a flavor element they were unavoidable.
Alien Rope Burn: Some are and some aren’t. Thankfully, it’s not a conversion of the ninja class in Ninjas & Superspies, which hilariously nerfed them into the Earth’s mantle in the revised edition. For example, they don’t get Prowl (i.e. stealth) automatically, and can only take it as a secondary skill with no bonuses! So in case you were wondering, the superspies win.
So we have samurai, ninja and ronin--three of the most recognizable stereotypes down. The ronin comes closest to not being essentialized mythologized crap and still gets the major combat stuff of the samurai, so it’s kind of the best of the bunch.
Next we’ll get into even more wildly ahistorical classes!
‘We somehow forgot all the other directions’Original SA post Rifts World Book 8: Japan Part 9: ‘We somehow forgot all the other directions’
So now we're going to go through several different priestly OCCs. I have complained in the past about Rifts completely failing to address religion even in circumstances that desperately required it. Now I wish it would shut the fuck up because Siembieda is so clueless and incapable. This section took me months to write because it is racist and ill-informed, but also unimaginably tedious and repetitive.
Now we have the Bishamon Fighting Monk. The what now? I haven’t spent a lot of time reading about the sectarian conflicts within Japan but as far as some cursory searching can tell me, this group is basically something invented whole cloth in Rifts. There was probably some obscure sect they based this on, but now in Rifts Japan they’re “one of the most popular” religious groups active. “Bishamon” is the name of one of the four directional guardians, the guardian of the north. In Rifts Japan the other three have been forgotten, apparently going for unidirectional madness like Zax who carry literature. The fighting monks wander the countryside, heal the sick and battle demons...with aikido. They’re described as generally very jovial, humble, and willing to pitch in at any level to help out. They pretty much only wear Millennium Tree armor along with a brown robe, and use a two-handed sword or long spear to fight.
the mark of enlightenment is never opening your damn eyes
Again we get a list of special training and powers the Bishamon monks have. A lot of these feature lists are cribbed or inspired by Ninjas & Superspies which had some pretty buff character options for an SDC world. For Rifts, they’re just alright. The Bishamon monks have “Chi-Gung” as a way to toughen themselves. They automatically get +90 to SDC...and for 1 PPE every two minutes they can convert all their SDC to MDC. They get the ‘Chi M.D. Death Blow’ (somehow I think this must be a kung-fu medical procedural) and they can select some special martial arts powers at various higher levels.
Bishamon monks get a pretty broad selection of psionic powers, mostly those that heal, and decent ISP. PPE is PE x2 which is decent since only one of their powers uses one point every two minutes.
They get the special skills of Begging (10%), Fasting (33% to avoid weakening or getting sick after two weeks), Bishamon Meditation (20%) that lets them recover resources at a rapid rate, and “Oriental Philosophies” which is really a choice of Japanese mythology, magic lore, haiku poetry, go, or Zen gardening.
To be a Bishamon you must be human, human only, no bumpy-head d-bees even. They receive a selection of monkly skills including the option for Mystic Herbology from England, several changes of clothes, a backpack and some other survival gear and food. They have a Millennium Tree staff and an ancient weapon of choice. They also specifically always have a pouch of medical supplies and 1D6x5 non-magical herbs so have fun going through that stupid list in England and “the character is always interested in healing and magic potions, teas, herbs and ointments.” At 6th level, if they’ve shown sufficient sacrifice, they might get one of the better Millennium Tree staves. At no point does this equipment list mention getting the big sword or spear mentioned in the initial description aside from the one weapon of choice, which is an SDC implement and so useful for applying butter to bread. But not supernatural butter.
Money is not a large concern for the Bishamon monks. They might use some loot to better their gear since they are an adventuring class, but otherwise they give it away to the order or sometimes the needy. Also, there are no lady monks, it is just dudes all using Aikido on the monsters. As well, Aikido’s full bonuses are in the back of the book, in a section devoted to various martial art forms. That’s cool and all, it’s just more of Palladium’s schizophrenic organization.
Now we’re done with the Bishamon, we get to the sohei warrior monk. Now these were real dudes but they were specifically Buddhist which surely did not escape the writers here--
Rifts Japan posted:
The sohei is the traditional, shinto, warrior monk.
a rifty rendition of a warrior dervish of some kind
The historical sohei were more or less the military arm of the Buddhist sects who were not under the jurisdiction of the emperor or the shogun and picked quite a few fights until 1603 when the Tokugawa stability more or less ended the need (and the tolerance) for their existence. They traveled in military groups with portable shrines that tended to keep ordinary non-monk soldiers away from them because committing violence in front of the shrine was a damning offense--unless it was monk-on-monk violence, then it was crushing the non-believers and that was cool. Rifts sohei are described more or less exactly like Bishamon monks, being lone wanderers who travel around helping people out, babysitting the kids or fighting demons or whatever.
We get some more of those lovely bafflingly specific stats--a typical temple will have 2D4 jodo masters at 1D4+9th level (yeesh), 4D6 experienced monks (1D4+5th level), 6D6 young monks (1D4+1 level), 1D4x10 1st level scrub monks and 1D6x10 novices with 1D4 years of training to go. Two large monasteries as well as a Bishamon monastery are located within a half mile of the Kyoto Millennium Tree with a big ole shinto complex dominating the tree proper. The sohei and Bishamon have been “friendly rivals” for generations. Man, if there was one thing the sohei did not do, it was friendly rivalry.
They are listed as wearing a knotted towel (that’s a weird way to spell ‘cowl’) over their shaved heads, often cut from Millennium leaf, and a white robe with a darker tan or brown outer robe, and carrying a naginata or staff, their ‘signature weapons’.
As is coming to be typical of Japan’s layout, Sohei receive a list of martial-arts powers. Theirs is jodo, “The way of the staff.” Rifts asserts that this was developed because the staff isn’t considered a weapon and so anyone can use and have one. This is false--it’s true the Tokugawa banned all non-samurai from carrying weapons of war, but part of that ban was because of the sohei, who pretty much carried the same kinds of weapons the samurai did.
- Jodo strike: if the monk can hit 18 (with bonuses) the victim takes 1D6 extra damage, loses init, one attack, and has a 50% chance of dropping their weapon. Under 18 but still hitting just does normal damage.
- Parry Arrows: -2 to parry arrows and similar non-bullets, -6 to parry bullets, one opponent at a time, and they gain a steady bonus increase over time to a total of +7 at 15 plus any other parry bonuses.
- Jodo Bonuses: One extra attack with spears or staves, +1 parry plus jujitsu stuff.
- Millennium Tree Staff: 90% of sohei get one of these. The staff does 2D6 SDC to mortals, 3D6 to supernaturals (and bonus damage to a lot of those) plus it has 2D4x10 PPE of its own that can be used.
They also get the Chi M.D. Death Blow (this will never not be funny to me), and a choice of one body hardening power at level 1. They also get the begging and fasting skills plus feng shui which permits evaluation of PPE flows in an area, including good/evilness, natural or not, and when people are using it. At least, if you can make the 15%+5% skill roll. They have sohei meditation and “oriental philosophies” as well, pretty much identically to the Bishamon monks.
The sohei have fairly low attribute requirements, a pretty scattered alignment range, and permit non-humans to join--women have their own orders (and separate OCC). Since they don’t have any default way of mystically MDCing themselves up, it’s not a bad idea to choose a naturally MDC race like Wormwood Human. Sohei get a fairly obvious selection of monkly skills, plus jiujitsu (explained later) which can be changed to ‘teng-jutsu’ at the cost of three ‘other’ skill choices.
For equipment, they get a suit of MDC armor, typically Millennium-based, at 6th level they get a set of 120M DC bark armor. This is worn under the robes. They have some minimal clothing and supplies, a naginata, the Millennium staff, and that’s about it. At 6th level they might get a cooler Millennium staff. Honestly, making up a few other variant magic staves would have been nice for this book and also for in general.
They have almost no money (3D4x10 credits) and tend to be given free food and shelter anywhere they go (at least in the New Empire) and have their material needs met by communities grateful to have them around.
The sohei warrior nun comes right after this with a big flop. They’re basically identical to the male version but they learn a few different skills, including cooking and sewing. The sohei females tend to be focused on homestead arts, teaching, crafting and whatever but wandering adventure nuns do exist. Honestly this didn’t need to be a separate class and the sohei on the whole are just markedly inferior to the Bishamon monks--the Bishamon get natural MDC, psionics, healing herbs, the ability to have money of their own, and the magic staff guaranteed, and aikido is grossly overpowered even (and perhaps especially) compared to 'teng-jutsu'.
not a monastery
The last priestly OCC is the Yamabushi Mountain Priest. These guys are followers of the Shugendō religion, which is a syncretic mystery religion that focuses heavily on ascetic discipline in order to seek enlightenment. Another term for followers of this religion is familiar: shugenja. The yamabushi tend to focus on oneness with nature through various tests or trials of discipline. The book gets this much more or less right, then immediately compares them to western druids. This is one of those weird classes that is described as being mostly non-combat. The yamabushi maintain no temples or monasteries and wander alone through the countryside, assisting the people they meet along the way as followers of peace. They will sometimes join small groups of adventurers just to see where the wind carries them, and some of the more towny members of the New Empire think they’re uncouth unwashed mountain weirdoes, which is accurate, and they’re also suspicious of the yamabushi accepting basically anything into their order, and consorting with tengu, goblins, fairies--basically whatever walks the earth and doesn’t try to kill them.
In this respect they can be useful to rural communities by trying to find nonviolent solutions to disputes. For this reason apparently they are widely feared by various demons and oni. These guys (they’re not all guys I guess but in general) tend to go for the hobo-chic, with fairly ragged clothing, poor hygiene, long hair worn loose and plenty of trail dirt and clinging grass. They don’t have any particular uniform to identify them.
They get supernatural powers of course, that’s the whole point. These powers use PPE though they are expressed as not being “magic” in the classical sense. W’ev.
- The Healing Earth: The yamabushi and a patient must be on a mountain or at least touching a huge boulder to draw energy from. The healing power stops all bleeding, heals internal lesions and ulcers, and restores 2D4 hit points/SDC. This is basically a band-aid but would be very popular and useful in a rural area with few to no other medical options. As a Rifts power, it’s useless. PPE 10.
- Cleansing Earth: It’s called “cleansing earth” but it requires pulling a patient into a pool of clear water, salt or fresh. All toxins, diseases, drugs, potions, alcohol and whatever are cleared up instantly. Lingering damage already suffered is not healed, but all further effects are cancelled. Also for some reason the yamabushi is completely immune to possession while performing this ritual and gains a +10% to perform an exorcism which would be great if they weren’t already busy. PPE 10.
- Fire Earth: Yamabushi can step into lava without harm with this ritual. They’re immune to all heat, including mega-damage plasma and magic fire. They can also ignite fire, fuel flame, and cast fire balls as a 5th level wizard regardless of their own level. One minute of chanting, PPE 10 + 1 per hour, up to 8 hours.
- Good Earth Above: Self-heal by climbing up something tall and hanging upside-down and naked from the top. Depending on how tall a thing, they can regenerate and purge themselves of any debuffs at varying rates. Things like broken bones take days to heal so they have to stay hanging in the wind potentially for days. If they’re interrupted they get half restoration and some annoying penalties that last until they can finish their hanging. Costs zero to three PPE; the main cost is time. This shit is weird even for Rifts and I guess it’s probably based on some of the ascetic rituals actual yamabushi might pursue, but it just reads very oddly.
- Spirit Earth: Similar to the Good Earth but instead of the body, the focus is the mind. The yamabushi can focus on needed knowledge and receive spell powers at 8th (!) level if they hung from a mountain top, 6th for a peak, 4th for a boulder and 2nd for a treetop. The spells they get are things that affect nature, like ‘summon storm’ and any earth warlock spell. They can also meditate this way to receive knowledge of skills including technical skills but not martial arts or physical skills. That’s right, you can learn programming by hanging naked off a mountaintop, but not acrobatics, because that would be OP. Thirdly, they can try to commune with spirits in the area. Any spells or skills gained this way remain until the ritual is performed again to change them. 2D4 hours to perform, half of available PPE, min 20. One spell/skill per two levels.
- Iwa-Kami or ‘holy rock’: The yamabushi can choose a rock, any ole glacial remnant at least twice their own size, and sit on it for eight days straight with no food or water. Trivial! 42%+1% per level chance of awakening the kami within, and it will either increase farm and game bounties in the area or become a healing stone that can do the healing earth power above up to eight times a week on children, pregnant women, good-aligned people or even just people with good intentions if it’s Saturday night and there are charges left I guess. Also costs the priest 2 permanent PPE.
- The Power of Stone: Because all these other powers are not of stone. But this time, the yamabushi is eating stones! They can swallow two stones per level and gain 6 MDC per stone, and probably a sore tummy. They also become impervious to “natural heat or cold or fire and ice.” Half-damage from mega-damage fire and ice, including plasma and fusion. Withstand winds up to 70mph and can lift and carry 100 times normal capacity, and increase punch and kick damage by 1D6 (generally SDC). Reduces Speed by 33% to make that baffling equation harder, and lose one attack per melee. Lasts five minutes per stone and costs 10 PPE. Kind of crap--12 MDC is one blast from a crappy gun and loss of an action is a stiff penalty. Even at 15th level you would gain only 180 MDC, which is not quite tissue paper, maybe the corrugated cardboard of the MDC world.
- Feng Shui: This class description will not shut up jesus christ. Yamabushi have innate feng shui, and can naturally evaluate the PPE potential of any given area, sense if there are good/evil controlling forces, and whether it is natural (uncontrolled) or not. Despite it being listed as ‘not a skill,’ it has a 40% + 5% chance per level of working, automatically.
- Hojo-e: A brief ceremony to kami involving a three minute chant and pushing-away gestures that will set free any caged birds or fish in range without damaging the cages or nets. Yes. This will come in handy. PPE 10, 10 ft radius per level but also with a range of 100 ft per level.
- Chi MD, Death Blow (Christmas(special)): I guess envision the Bride, but a hobo?
- Mystic Martial Arts power of Kangeiko & Shochu Geiko: For all that yap in the title, this just lets you resist severe weather unprotected for a full day with no ill effects. Also +3D6 SDC, +1D6 hit points, invulnerable to stun and paralysis attacks which are in italics like Rifts has a keyword system or something (it does not). And also half-damage from fire and cold, including magic and plasma, making that rock eating trick less ah, impressive. Specifically immune to the “withering flesh atemi power.” This appears to be permanent, as no duration or cost is listed.
Phew, that seems to be it for this stupid class’s powers. These are so random and weird and often useless and they take up multiple pages of rambly nonsense. Further statistical data: they get normal mediocre PPE, some bonuses to save vs Horror Factor, possession, and elemental magic and they can’t be psionic.
Oh wait, there’s a couple more:
- Fasting: 56% +3% per level, that being the specifically playtested and balanced difficulty for going without food (so long as there is sufficient water) for more than two weeks.
- Yamabushi Meditation: 30+5% peer level which recovers resources at a faster rate than normal like all the other meditation skills all these monks get.
Equal split between men and women, generally scrupulous or unprincipled, no minimum attributes. Any race may become yamabushi if they really want to eat rocks and sit on rocks and look closely at rocks for days at a time. They get some various selections from Siembieda’s idea of medieval Japanese skills, a few other sorts of skills, a small pouch filled with 20-30 small stones (BUT NO MORE), clothes, no starting armor, several empty sacks (MORE STONES), a backpack (not for stones), water skin and rations. For weapons they get a skinning knife, butcher knife, a small combat knife, a frying pan, grappling hook and cord (for climbing), mallet and wood or iron stakes (for climbing), small hand axe (for chopping wood and climbing), wood or iron staff, and weapon of choice (reflective of WP) (for climbing)
They get no money and no cybernetics because they are rolling monks who acquire no moss.
This class is nuts, packed with useless and weird powers based on an esoteric minor sect in Japan. I mean doing some background research for the write-up, the faith they’re sort of inspired by sounds interesting in its way but not nearly this insane and I can’t help but wonder what old orientalist book on Japanese religions Siembieda dug out of early 90s Wisconsin to come up with this writeup. Probably from the same place he got his dictionary. There’s also no non-wandering priest class, all religion is itinerant I guess.
Next time: Another OCC and their mysteeeeelious arts.
“Most Demon Quellers have a weakness for beautiful women”Original SA post Rifts World Book 8: Japan Part 10: “Most Demon Quellers have a weakness for beautiful women”
So, today we are visiting the Demon Queller OCC. He is a “truly unique character,” as no other class in this game line or even this chapter is devoted to fighting demons, no sir. These are monastically trained demon fighters and 70% of their monasteries are located in China. That’s almost more specific info about China than we’ve learned anywhere else to date. Anyway, these guys really hate demons, because fuck demons that’s why, they’re gonna kill them some demons, and when they’re done, they’ll go kill EVEN MORE demons.
But hey, just because they love to hate demons doesn’t mean they don’t like to party! They totally like to party. So much that demons will send girls out to party with them as spies or maybe hold a maiden hostage because they will do anything for the ladies. This is why Demon Quellers usually travel alone, or join forces with other heroes and demon slayers. Nobody knows how many of these hard-partying demon-quelling dudes there are, but maybe a lot! Maybe a whole lot but nobody knows, not even the demons.
The stereotypical Demon Queller is a large, muscular man, usually of Chinese (emphasis theirs) or Japanese heritage with a wild, bushy beard and mustache. They wear ornate silk robes (because armor is for pussies and demons), a “Chinese scholar’s cap”, and large black boots. They are loud, direct and outspoken, as one is after a monastic upbringing. When not fighting demons, they party. Their favorite weapons are large swords, axes, and polearms. Bonus round question: Which Dynasty Warriors character am I?
Alien Rope Burn: I’m 98% positive this is Yin Chik-ha, the ghost hunter from 1987’s A Chinese Ghost Story.
Theoretically women can become Demon Quellers but nobody in Japan has ever seen one.
To the Powers List!
- Mystic Body Hardening Exercises: They get mystic martial arts powers as follows: Stone Ox, “Chi-Gun”, Iron Hand, and Kick Practice/Chagi. These are all described in the mystic martial arts section in the back, but the summary says they allow the Demon Queller to MDC-ify their shit. For two minutes at a time they can turn their SDC + hit points to MDC, which with the right skill selections + the Ox thing should give them ~200ish. Not modified by level beyond the small gain in SDC/hit points. They can also do small amounts of MDC with kicks and punches. Their best bet is to jump kick constantly, it’s a single attack and does 3D6.
- Chi..MD...Death Blow. (special):
- Magic Spell Abilities: They know only the spells that help them fight demons and “aren’t interested in learning any others, at best, one or two spells every three levels.” Initial spells: globe of daylight, breathe without air, impervious to fire, circle of flame, fire ball, call lightning, charismatic aura, magic net, tongues, words of truth, exorcism, banishment, and protection circle: simple. Certainly no other spells could ever be applicable in demon fighting.
my hat-radar senses danger
- Meditation: 20% + 6% per level for the same ability all the other mystic classes have.
That’s actually it. After the yamabushi this is astonishingly brief. They get very modest PPE, but since the main thing they have to spend it on is hardening their muscles every two minutes (eight torturous Palladium rounds) they won’t burn through it all that fast. Unless they want to exorcise something, in which case they better be on a nexus. They get some modest combat bonii, plus immunity to possession (actually pretty strong in a world with Alien Intelligences everywhere), and immunity to vampire bites and mind control. +1 to save vs. other kinds of mind control, like sexy lady mind control.
Alignment is again on the scrupulous-unprincipled-anarchist axis. ME 14 and PS 12 to play. Any race and any gender may theoretically join, but most of them fail the critical ‘looking like Guan Yu’ requirement in some fashion. Their skills are primarily non-technical martial, and despite being completely devoted to doing nothing but fighting and flipping out on people they are forbidden to take acrobatics and boxing.
They ‘seldom wear armor’ because that 200-some MDC is going to last all day. They do get a silk robe, several sets of general clothing, boots, gloves, rope, sacks, backpacks, survival gear, and if they can ride a horse they are generously allotted a horse. Weaponswise they get a “high-quality, large sword (or two)” which leaves them still SDC weapons they probably shouldn’t break on demon hides, a knife, and three weapons of choice, which can be vibro-blades or guns or other modern tools. 2D6x1000 credits to start, and while they often make a lot of money, they often spend it lavishly. Other less well-compensated OCCs with very similar roles sometimes resent the Demon Queller.
This class would be balanced and decent if enemies in Rifts did not all have such incredibly inflated MDC totals, and if technological characters didn’t start out with much, much better stuff both in armor and weaponry. Why be a dinky little bearded drunk guy when you could be a SAMAS pilot with more MDC, the ability to fly at 200MPH, a railgun and missile barrages? Yes, I did just answer my own question there but statistically the Demon Queller doesn’t really live up to their fluff text, which is par for the Rifts course.
Tengu are a famous feature of Japanese mythology, occupying a number of different roles depending on the legend in question, sometimes as trickster, sometimes teacher, always mysterious. In Rifts they “tease, criticize, mock, annoy and play practical jokes on Buddhist priests (ancient rivals of the Shintoists who are their friends) and those “who worship technology.” They especially hate posers who claim to be priests, ninja or samurai but use power armor or cyber-limbs or anything else.
Tengu pranks tend to be ridiculously annoying, like moving things even to the point of tossing them into tree branches, tying shoelaces together, turning on gun safeties (), setting fires (hilarious prank!) and enjoying the chaos. The text refers to them often as ‘mountain goblins’ which seems a bit reductive.
They also hate Chinese and Indian mystical creatures and gods. Just, because. Especially Garuda and the ‘t’ien-kou’ Celestial Dog which is not statted in this book.
Of course, if you’re a “true” samurai, mystic ninja, or one of those other numerous wandering luddite classes that clings to the fairyland image of Japan, they show respect. Others who seem close to nature get less shade thrown as well, including druids, psi-stalkers (?!), Dog-boys (lotta those around Japan), simvan, and Wolfen--but not the other canids I guess. The good-aligned ones are also nice to poor people.
They protect Shinto buildings and sometimes help out monks and priests by doing chores or leaving food. Sometimes they even provide religious instruction directly. Good-aligned ones again tend to protect humans from demons and even from the worst depredations of their own brethren. Also, because they’re all martial artists and weapon masters.
Evil tengu are just dicks, whose pranks often turn dangerous or vile such as kidnapping children as slaves. People leave them offerings to try and get them to leave, but basically they’re jerks who are more creative than the usual ‘enjoys torturing and killing people’ level of Rifts monster.
Apparently a bunch of them are supposed to live on Mt. Kurama, and playing a gleeful prankster is noted as a delightful diversion to lighten up any group! Everyone loves kender after all. Evil ones of course make nice NPC villains who can create a lot of chaos.
On to the powers!
[*] Shape-change into a human: They often take the form of religious persons matching the tengu’s own biological sex. 12 hrs duration, and they can only appear Asian. Good thing that’s a narrow category with little variation. Limited to between 6 ft and 3 ft (!) tall.
[*] Possess Others: They can possess people, how charming. This only allows speech through the affected person’s mouth, and only on a willing victim, or one asleep, unconscious, or in a trance. One minute per level, and they speak and language the host does. I can't see the point of this unless there's a language barrier maybe but--nah.
[*] Spells: they have several spells they know instinctively and can teach to others if they wish.
[*] Teng-jutsu: They have a special martial art all their own which I’ll get to in a minute, and NPC tengu also know another art in addition. Go for that sweet aikido.
They get pretty good PPE, some pretty strong natural bonuses including immunity to normal fire and half from magical and mega-damage fire. They also fatigue at 1/10th the rate of humans, not that we have a lot of mechanics for that.
We heard a lot in the fluff text about good- and evil-aligned tengu; turns out 3% are principled, 12% scrupulous, 20% unprincipled, 30% anarchist, 5% aberrant, 20% miscreant, and 10% diabolic. So the scale’s a bit tipped.
They get good attribute rolls (PP 2D6+12), natural MDC of 3D4x10+PE, nightvision, see the invisible, sense supernatural, and regen 3D6 MD per hour. They naturally punch for 1D4 MD and kick for 1D6. They get a lot of old-timey skills though can also learn sciences, and “Technical: Any (+10%) except computers or any tech skills.” Okay.
They are prominently described as having wings but nowhere in this statblock do they have the ability to fly. They get almost nothing for equipment and are described as a bit magpie-like in being drawn to silk and shiny stuff, but they don’t usually hoard.
So the tengu, being Oriental mountain-goblins, have a secret martial art all their own. They also gain all special powers for the art at level 1, versus making everyone else wait to get their stuff. They do get bonuses at every level but they are fairly average.
The specal powers are:
[*]Tengu acrobatics, giving even more bonuses but not as many as the default Acrobatics skill.
[*]Tengu Leap: 10 ft +2 per level.
[*]Tengu Automatic Leap Dodge: An automatic dodge done acrobatically with accompanying wisecracks. This is confusingly phrased: “Each leaping dodge uses up one melee attack, but can be done indefinitely to avoid attack and damage as if it were a parry.” I--okay. I guess you lose one attack a round for automatic dodges thereafter? It also says that the tengu often use this to frustrate and anger opponents, making snide remarks at every missed attack, much like an entire race of Nightwings. “A frustrated or angry opponent tends to become reckless, will tire himself out foolishly, and focus on his leaping opponent rather than what’s happening around him.” No mechanical support for this statement.
Alien Rope Burn: I swear I’ve read this mechanic like ten times trying to figure out what the everliving fuck they were trying to convey and I’m still coming up with nothing.
[*]Tengu Timed Leap: I’m seeing a theme here. This is a carefully timed leap meant to make an opponent strike something inopportune, like a rock, or another opponent. Only a +2 and PP bonuses allowed, no other bonii.
[*]Tengu Kick Attack: Instead of punching, they can use kicks. Amazing. Add 1D6 MDC if you’re a tengu, SDC if you’re a meatbag.
[*]Tengu Power Kick: Humans can do 2D6 MDC, Tengu do 5D6, and it counts as two attacks.
[*]Tengu Power Punch: 1D4 MD for humans, 2D6 for tengu, two attacks. Absolutely no reason to use this over the kick unless you fear enemies seeing your petticoats.
So 'teng-jutsu' isn't all tha great on the scale of Palladium martial arts honestly, Rifts always makes a huge deal out of ordinary humans being able to do MDC with punches and kicks but it's always so little as to be meaningless. All the other stuff, various kinds of jumping around, aren't much more than flash. The Automatic Leap Dodge might be good if you could ever figure out what the hell they actually mean by it, but the type of player who would choose a tengu is likely the sort who would make unendurable bad wisecracks every dodge roll so it's probably better if you don't try and figure it out.
Next: NOW we get to the Republic of Japan.
“Perhaps it is not surprising that the Japanese, with their long tradition of attributing nature with supernatural aspects, would be among the first to recognize ley line energy.”Original SA post
Rifts World Book 8: Japan Part 11: “Perhaps it is not surprising that the Japanese, with their long tradition of attributing nature with supernatural aspects, would be among the first to recognize ley line energy.”
I'll be seeing this review to the end from here on out. Man. This book. Well, you were asking about the Republic of Japan, and now we have the:
Republic of Japan
The Republic is where the coffee spilled on this drawing.
Rifts World Book 8 posted:
The events that led up to the Great Cataclysm were a series of incredible coincidences.
Man, you're telling me. It seems like every other book it's like "And then there's another group of amazing survivors who found a turtle shell and all tucked themselves inside!" I swear, it's like nobody remembers that an apocalypse happened when writing these things. And so, speaking of nations that made it through 300 years of nightmare completely intact, it's the Republic of Japan!
So, thanks to Japanese being more in touch with nature and mysticism and not being as tied to "humankind's myopic pursuit of science-"
- I'm sorry, I had to get some of that Orientalism out before I swallowed it. So Japanese scientists were experimenting with ley line energy and trying to teleport a vase, but instead put a one hundred mile radius around them into a pocket dimension, transporting Kure, Iwatani, and Ichto (ugh, that name is like a thorn in my paw) and letting the next 300 or so years pass over the course of three of their days. Ooops. There was some panic, but it was mild compared to what happened when they rifted in and oni and demons rushed the city like Red Rover. Continued raids killed hundreds of thousands before they fortified and militarized, becoming able to hold off the oni hordes.
So, we're told 20% of the Republic's population are cyborgs, which... why? I don't know. Maybe people have tragic steakhouse accidents all the time, or maybe cyberarms are just fashionable. Of course, in the military, enhancements are common and the number jumps to 33%. Military cyborgs are required to have a lot of their weapon systems decommissioned to transition to civilian life. And, of course, there are illegal body chop-shops that will make you into the cyber-samurai of your dreams. Of course, we're told that Shinto religious authorities object, but that feels like an oversimplification of Shintoists as basically just hippie druids, but it's not the first time Rifts has fumbled its way around a living religion, nor will it be the last. It's been 15 years since they popped back into existence and they're still adjusting.
A few thousand local Japanese people seemingly died when the cities popped back in (tossed into some other dimension), and for awhile the superstitious bumpkins nearby thought that the cities were home to monsters or gods, and some still don't think they're quite human. Oh, those bumpkins! However, some migrated to the cities and have begun to settle in. Meanwhile, Ichto broke off and formed its own state, while the Otomo Shogunate instantly resented them. The New Empire would come to see them as "lost children of Japan" - i.e. spiritually as well as literally, because they blame machines for the current state of affairs. (Technically true, but I can't help but notice all their threats are magical.) And so they have preachers and protesters that go to the Republic cities to try and convince them of the danger of using digital watches. And about 2% of the Republic's population has gone over to the New Empire, presumably discarding their digital watches on the way. The Republic has also become more spiritualer which to Siembieda & Co. means having more art and gardens around and a samurai sword hanging on the mantle. There is a tiny percentage of psychics and wizards, actually surprisingly small given the fact we know how many people become psychic in post-rifts Earth (about 1 in 4). Maybe all of the psychics took the next carriage to the New Empire, or more likely, the writers just forgot. Of course, a lot of young cyberoids-
Cyberoids? Really? That's the word we're going to use from here on out? Sigh. Do you even know that the "oid" suffix means? It means "like" or "resembling" a given subject. Technically, a "cyberoid" should be somebody who's similar to... cyber? Well. Anyway. Nearly half the population are cyberoids, which is just a way of saying they have significant cybernetics, and a lot of young people embrace it and technology and reject the old ways. 2% of them, we're told, commit violence against New Empire protesters and their ilk... which, uh. 2% is still 300,000 people, Rifts. There shouldn't be any New Empire protesters that aren't dead in alleys or filling up emergency rooms at that rate.
Occamsnailfile: So 20% are cyborgs, and 50% are “cyberoids”. Does that mean 70% have to get hand-scanned at airports?
Alien Rope Burn: Well, the exact number of “cyberoids” are 40%. So presumably. Of course, by Rifts standards, I think having a cybernetic clock-calendar and compass makes you a “cyberoid”.
”Welcome to your new life as a cyberoid.” “Is that what I’m called now? I fucked up!”
People Out of Time
It notes that the Republic is mostly progressive (aside from the 2% of people punching mikos, I guess) and is willing to accept D-Bees cautiously and "do not feel bitter or besieged" despite being literally besieged. In general, they're supposed to be optimists, and have essentially reformed their democratic republic. The use "credits based on the Japanese Yen", which is a contradiction in Rifts terms. Ultimately, they use credits, but their credit system isn’t compatible with America / Europe / Atlantis. We're told their government is efficient and generally honest. A lot of life revolves around the surviving corporations, of which there are more than 30, we're told. Other than Armatech, Ichto, and H-Brand, (makers of an equipment section coming soon) though, the only corporations mentioned are Cybercomp (media and telecommunications) and Kiramitsu Motor Company (vehicles and transportation). Salvage of ancient ruins in fallen cities and also mining and raiding Korea and China is a big deal for them. (No details on the latter other than that they're full of monsters, of course.) They rely a lot on hydroponics and fishing to supplement their food supply.
We're told "Industrial espionage is a way of life!" and that ninjas and cyborgs and other agents run in the shadows, as it were. Many corporations essentially have militarized security as a result, and farmers and travellers can similarly apply to be able to carry weapons. The writing kind of has a whiplash effect like this in regards to the Republic - it wants them to both be an enlightened Golden Age republic and at the same time have them being a cyberpunkian dystopia and the two don't mesh well. For example, ninjas basically buy off government scrutiny by volunteering their services to the government. Even so, wouldn't they be arresting corporate leaders every time they catch something like this? It doesn't quite work.
Occamsnailfile: They also leave out Japanese Nationalism completely--and not that I want to encourage even a little bit of that stuff, but we get HUMANS FIRST GERMANS FIRST (or Chi...people, etc) from our other large technological human nations and the Japanese are like ‘nah, immigration be cool, even for dragons and aliens and shit’.
The main cities of the Republic are Hiroshima, Kure, and Iwakuni. Nagasaki will be mentioned repeatedly as another one later on, but is never mentioned under the actual writeup, because Rifts doesn't really plan its words in advance. Suburbs are "a thing of the past" somehow, either you're in urban sprawl or mechanized farming, nothing inbetween. Naturally, it gives us the typical Tokyo depiction of video screens and neon everywhere... I guess all of Japan is like Tokyo by that point. Also, there's crime, mainly having to do with gambling, bloodsports, and other vices, as well as illegal human enhancements like juicing and cybernetics.
Education is a big deal and all citizens automatically get a skill package including literacy in both Japanese and American (English), even though there's no reason to speak American much anymore. I guess it makes sense with them being time-lost. "They have never heard of Euro...", that is, the language, despite the fact that they just warped forward in time and should be perfectly familiar with the former nations of the world, unless it's a new invention of post-rifts culture (which given the state of Europe, seems highly unlikely). Thankfully, the New Empire speaks the same sort of Japanese and seemingly has not had their language change at all in three centuries, so they can talk back and forth with the Republic normally. Hurray for simplicity in game linguistics, I suppose!
Human Augmentation in the Republic of Japan
We're told that the Republic has the highest level of technology on Earth, which seems... puzzling. I mean, sure, they have access to the old Golden Age technology of Earth, but there are other groups (Triax and the New Navy, to name just two) that also had access to some level of Golden Age technology and then three centuries to develop it further. But Japan is special and the Golden Age of Rifts Earth is like the word "prototype" in fiction, where glitter boys are the height of war technology because they were developed 300 years ago and nothing has ever gotten better since, even in places that have glitter boy tech and centuries to advance on it-
Stupid blanket statements about how things were "better back in in my day" aside, we get to hear about how they have highly developed cybernetics, bionics, juicing technology, and crazy technology. Nearly half the population is cybernetically enhanced, as mentioned, and they're "connected to cyber-space", because the Republic has gotta be cyberpunk even though the authors at best have a nebulous notion of how computers work, as we'll see in the cybernetics section. Cyber-space won't really be discussed further than this passing mention. Juicer and crazy augmentations were used by the Republic early on but have been made largely illegal, but groups like ninja clans, organized crime, H-Brand, and Otomo still use them.
They also have enough knowledge of genetics to cure most genetic diseases and to clone replacement tissue, organs, and limbs. Some private research facilities offer replacement bodies for the rich and powerful to extend their lifespan. Though they once experimented with making superior human mutants, they mostly created tragic monsters that no doubt mumbled "killll meeee". Otomo and H-Brand are probably still fucking around with the idea, twirling their mustaches as they do so, but the idea won't be any further developed than that.
Akira, now with more neckbeard.
The Law & Law Enforcement
Rifts World Book 8: Japan posted:
The laws and social mores are fundamentally the same as 20th or 21st Century Japan.
... except having literal families of ninja running around and the occasional cybernetic samurai and proxy wars between corporations, but other than that, pretty much the same! We're told corruption is "uncommon" with only 13% of the police force accepting bribes or bending the law. (For the record, America is considered to have a rate of 1% of police officers performing misconduct in a year... which we consider completely unacceptable.) The military is only at 2%. Citizens are only rarely allowed to have weapons under license and visitors are expected to have all their weapons held at a customs office, unless they have a license from a company or government for security work or the like.
Being heavily militarized for defense, the military-industrial complex is in full swing here, though they tend to rely on small elite groups with high technology rather than large armies. In general, they're said to be actually more elite than the Coalition or Triax, owing to Japan's superior orientalism, either using "blitzkrieg" tactics (one of the only strategies Siembieda has heard of, so everybody uses it) or precision strike teams.
We're told that police and military are treated as big heroes, but really, where aren't they in Rifts? Coalition, Columbia, Triax, New Navy, every place is ra ra war machine go go. In any case, they are treated like "the samurai of old" because this book can barely two pages without invoking samurai, ninjas, dragons, or oni. They have the "Glitter Force" (seriously) that is their glitter boy unit, and then two paragraphs detailing how they don't have a formal navy. Who the hell is raiding China and Korea, then, private citizens?
Occamsnailfile: Also are they just subsisting on tofu for protein? Sushi goddammit. And being Rifts, fishing boats need considerable cannon. I would not recommend whaling in the time of Rifts though. At the very least, you’re likely to shoot an Uplift who can return fire.
Alien Rope Burn: Supposedly they fish yet somehow don’t have a Navy. There are pirates out there, guys! It’s established!
D-Bees of the Republic of Japan
The Republic accepts D-Bees (even though there aren't many) as long as they "complete the necessary steps", whatever those are. There's a small minority of human supremacists (1%, we're told), lead by a radical group called Earth for Humanity that wear black coveralls and commit harassment and violence against D-Bees, since we can't have a completely enlightened human nation that isn't written by Carella. Comparatively, Otomo is about half human supremacists (being the baddies) and Ichto has about one-third (being the diet baddies).
The Republic has only discovered that China, Korea, and Taiwan to be full of monsters but is trying to investigate further. The New Empire is a relatively amiable rival. We get a side note that some New Empire Shintoists think that the ghosts of the atomic attack on Hiroshima saved that city from the rifts. Apparently this is why a lot of them see it as their job to "enlighten" the Republic rather than reject it. Ichto is a more bitter rival, being far more hawkish than the Republic. Takamatsu is a generic ally. The Otomo Shogunate has all the moral nuance of Skeletor on a cocaine bender, and so, hates the Republic and supplies their enemies and criminal factions with weapons. The Zone, being full of oni, mostly just sees the Republic as an obstacle to conquer. Most of the Freelands see the Republics as a cage for pampered wusses. The Horune Pirates conflict with the Republic and trade with the Otomo, and have taken over Okinawa in a footnote. We get a lot of notes on what countries don't know about the Republic, but that's not important.
In case you missed it, the ghosts of the atomic attack on Hiroshima may have saved that city from the rifts. Nagasaki was just lucky, though?
Next: Enough ninjas to make Mortal Kombat blush.
“At some point between the ages of 14 and 18 (the character may have performed some missions as a normal ninja before then), candidates with the right physical and psychological conditions are selected for juicer conversion.”Original SA post
Rifts World Book 8: Japan Part 12: “At some point between the ages of 14 and 18 (the character may have performed some missions as a normal ninja before then), candidates with the right physical and psychological conditions are selected for juicer conversion.”
For some reason all the New Empire classes are relisted here, and then we get into the Republic of Japan classes.
”Oh, hey, didn’t see you there, we just pose like this all the time."
This sounds more like a health condition. "Everybody knows cyberoids burn and itch, but our nanotech cream offers swift relief!"
These punks love some cyber, and really, I feel like they just called them cyberoids because cyberpunk was already a name of another game. They love computers and cybernetics and some spend time "on-line", organize into a "gang", and go get "jacked-up". (Quote marks are theirs.) Though many are just basically social groups, others get sucked in the world of the yakuza who will not be mentioned otherwise. Other slang that's thrown around without purpose:
- Street Soldier is a cyberoid that handles illegal data or contraband.
- Holding refers to holding contraband, running refers to delivering it.
- Cyberoid Punks are cyberoids that live "on the edge" (once again, their quotation marks) and engage with the criminal underworld. They're also called Cyberoid Weasels or - hilariously - "Cy-Wees". I’m 98% sure cy-wees are also what you get when you have an malfunctioning bionic dick.
They wanted cool cyberpunk hackers but don't want to give them any agency, whee. Palladium Books!
”I am too a real samurai! I’m Kakita Robaato of the Crane Clan!”
a.k.a. The "False" Samurai
We get a whole paragraph reminding us that samurai are special and ancient and traditiona. Well, some Republic cyberoids apparently have legit samurai ancestry and have decided modelling themselves after an oppressive warrior class is cool again. They use cybernetics, vibro-blades, explosive arrows, and motorcycles in place of traditional weapons, and some even obey the samurai code. Others are wannabes like the "cyber-ronin" who, rather than losing their master to become ronin, decide it's just more rad to be masterless to begin within. Of course, "real" samurai think these guys are scummy imitations and sometimes it devolves into dueling-
Wait, so what makes a "real" samurai? Reading back on the Traditional Samurai Warrior O.C.C., they get magic swords that only work for somebody who is a genuine noble warrior sort. It also implies that any samurai sword of sufficient quality works as well. So the only thing differentiating "true" samurai is a magic sword that confirms that, yes, they have the samurai spirit, and some additional training. So I guess they're upset that some don't have their magic badge of stabbing, even though there's really nothing preventing a cyber-samurai from getting anything a "true" samurai has other than their anti-tech snobbery.
As a class, they're partial cyborgs (you know, the crappy kind of cyborg) and get a choice of different cybernetic and bionic features. They can also learn the same samurai tricks true samurai can, further proving my point that ownership of a magic sword is not a great basis for a warrior caste. They get some more skills than regular cyborgs, and are.... kind of alright? I mean, they're not going to be as bad-ass as a full-on cyborg but they at least will have some unique tricks.
Of course you only have a 42% chance of being able to play one, whereas anybody can play a combat cyborg. Game balance? This is verisimilitude!
”So, I’m going to drive at one hundred miles per hour, and then just stab them with this… what do you mean that’s a bad plan?”
Oh, man, it's time for the ninja parade! Oh, you don't see them? Well, that's the ninja parade for you.
Naturally, the ninja never actually went away in modern pre-rifts Japan, they just forgot all their cool magic tricks and got technology instead. Naturally, this leads to the painfully predictable rivalry between the tech-ninja and traditional ninjas, as if “real” ninjas would honestly give a fuck. It notes that most of the time they leave the black PJs behind and have some cover role instead, and these are supposed to be those that focus on infiltration, theft, and sabotage - assassination is generally left to enhanced ninja types like juicers and cyborgs. It even recommends that the ninja keep his role a secret from other PCs because ninja secrets. Sure, sure.
They can still pick up ninjutsu as a hand-to-hand style, but bizarrely are the only Republic ninja types that can learn it. They get cyber-armor like cyber-knights do, and some modest implants, and a fairly robust skill set focused on sneaking, hacking, and melee combat.
You have only about 17% chance to qualify to play as one of these guys.
You'll see the rising sun motif a lot in this art...
Yes, this is the ninja-flavored version of the super-steroid warrior from the corebook. So, most of these are created for ninja clans by H-Brand and other shady corporations, since ninja are willing to die for the clan - or rather, are willing to brainwash certain "not overtly bright" members at a young age (14-18)... yeah, 15 year old juicer ninja assassins, slightly problematic... and train them in special meditation techniques that help extend their juicing lifespan (but not by much, like an extra year or so). Because of the cost involved with the process and training, they ironically aren't used as disposable assets unless they're nearing their "die by" date. It's noted a select few are allowed to detox and become ninja cyborgs, but most just die. H-Brand and Ichto also sometimes sell the ninja juicing process to those outside the ninja clans, but those are use the regular Juicer class.
Numbers-wise, they have reduced strength compared to normal juicers, but can hide the juicer jitteriness for a hour to a few hours through meditation... because meditation is magic... and get enhanced stealth and acrobatics. Of course, once their meditation might runs out, they can get revealed as a twitchy juicer, or-
Rifts World Book 8: Japan posted:
... a very manic individual, which can be strange under most circumstances in Japanese society).
Because it's totally normal in America, yeah? Also they're so sneaky they "will tend to startle and scare people around him", "which will make most civilians suspicious and afraid". Hokay. Unlike tech-ninja, they can't learn ninjutsu for no stated or apparent reason. I presume the answer is "game balance", but given that this game lets you play a giant phoenix-demigod that self-resurrects and can summon volcanoes, it's all pretty relative. They get a decent chunk of sneaky skills, and in a surprise, have no stat requirements - anybody can qualify! They do get a tracer implant, which seems a little problematic for ninja if somebody figures out the signal, but it's meant to leash those trying to run away, I suppose.
... a lot of rising suns.
... is a dumb idea, but we get them anyway. Ninjas have embraced taking on mental implants that make one highly unstable, apparently. Unlike normal crazies, they can resist their growing insanity to an extent because of... wait for it...
Yes, meditation, the catch-all cure-all that extends life, cures insanity, and makes your kitchen knives sharper than they've ever been! Wait, that last one was pyramid power, but that's a different Rifts book. They also have a tech-ninja trained in psychology assigned as a minder. Due to meditation and therapy, they have slightly better psionics to start... but don't get more as they level up, like normal crazies? It's not really clear if that’s intended or an oversight. They can control their insanity roughly for a week at a time, but the GM is supposed to roll secretly so that the crazy doesn't know when they're doing to crack. They get a pretty decent skill package as a hacker, saboteur, and assassin, but can't learn ninjutsu. Go figure. Like the juicer, they get a tracer chip to make sure their ninja bosses have their number. Oh, and you have a 16% chance to play one due to their strict Mental Endurance requirement.
”Well, the tail came free if you bought the arm, so…”
Really? Well, see, unlike normal cyborgs, which generally have absurd stealth penalties, these get special implants made by Ichto and H-Brand that make them more silent. Usually they're selected with those with physical impairments or weakness, and get VR training to make them into non-VR killers, then get made into cyborgs around age 18. A murderous teenager in a terminator body? Sounds like a perfect plan. In any case, they're most often used when heavy force is required in a mission.
They're full cyborgs, making them more powerful than cyber-samurai, and can cancel out the usual borg stealth penalties as long as they're basically not moving faster than a (normal) walking or jogging pace and don’t use heavy cyborg armor. They get a variety of gadgets and have to.... randomly roll to see if they really rad stuff like a bladed tail or an extra arm. They also get a special plasma "fire breath" weapon in the mouth that gives them a voice so deep they get a minor horror factor. "That voice... it's like Keith David... run!" While their skill package isn't fantastic, it's much better than the default cyborg package. And no, they can't learn ninjutsu, once again. About 38% chance to play the Cyrax or Sektor of your dreams.
”Techno-wizard? Oh, is that was I supposed to dress as for this picture? I thought we were doing ninja clowns. Sorry!"
Ninja Techno-Wizard O.C.C.
Discovered by H-Brand ninja trying to find a way to get revenge on mystic ninja (like you do), techno-wizardry is the exclusive province of ninja clans at the moment (and very rare, at that). Because of the high demand for their skills, making invisible magic ninja suits and flaming shuriken, they tend to be overworked and so some of the original ones are planning to leave their clan and escape their video game industryesque working conditions.
They're like regular techno-wizards, but get less spells and "Trying to learn spells elsewhere without the express consent of the clan is considered to be treason and punishable by death!" if that wasn't punishing enough. They get a mix of tech and sneaky skills, but not much in the way of optional picks. They also get cyber-armor, a few cybernetics, the ubiquitous tracer implant, and can get some basic techno-wizard enchantments (like pajamas of invisibility). Strict stat requirements mean only 5% of PCs will qualify!
And that's the last of the ninja. For the record, that means there are six different ninja classes in this book. Well, at least you could kit out an entire party as ninja without much overlap, even though we have precious little detail on the ninja clans of the Republic itself. I guess the book wants them to be a mystery.
“Robot pilots are highly respected by the population at large; given Japan's long-time fascination for giant war machines, these robot pilots are the living embodiments of manga ‘legends.’.”Original SA post
Rifts World Book 8: Japan Part 13: “Robot pilots are highly respected by the population at large; given Japan's long-time fascination for giant war machines, these robot pilots are the living embodiments of manga ‘legends.’.”
SAMAS Samurai Pilot
Well, these are Republic military pilots that fly SAMAS armor that’s like the Coalition’s, only samurai style, as we'll see, and... sigh... They live by Bushido and emulate samurai because I guess that's what you do in Japan. Unlike cyber-samurai, real samurai respect these guys because
This is a fairly generic pilot class that's supposed to double as half-assed cops (you can swing a nightstick, but don't expect to be great at solving mysteries). Skipping the pic because it’s just copy-pasted from the actual suit we’ll see later. About a 31% chance to play one. Not much else to add, the classes are pretty dull from here on out.
One Line For an Eye: Drawing Japanese People the Rifts Way
Well, this is like one of the worst classes in the corebook (the Coalition Grunt), but at least you can read compared to one's skull-helmed counterparts. These are volunteers from either the main population of the Republic or peasant refugees that have agree to join the army. They at least get a decent spread of skills. A low Physical Endurance requirement gives one a 74% chance of qualifying for this. That's that.
Robot Pilot O.C.C.
This is the generic class where if you want to pilot a robot vehicle, and they're highly esteemed by the population who sees them as the living example of Gundam pilots and anime and manga and anime anime anime. Infantrymen resent this, seeing them as taking fewer risks and getting greater glory, so robot pilots and infantry tend to self-segregate into different hangouts and bars lest fights break out. Otherwise, a fairly generic pilot class with a relatively robust skill set. May randomly get some cybernetic implants. Ironically, a robot vehicle is not listed as part of their equipment, but one can assume that the military provides one reasonably. 37% chance to play one.
Glitter Force Trooper O.C.C.
Not nearly glam as it sounds, just glitter boy pilots in Japan that serve the Republic. They're more serious and dedicated than American glitter boy pilots because all hail glorious nippon or something and are serious, confident, dutiful sorts. It says they'd like American glitter boys if they really got to know them, though!... which should happen as soon as glitter boys learn to swim. You get a glitter boy and skills and some shit, I guess, some cybernetic implants, and... about a 50% chance to play one.
”Wow, somebody drew art of me even though I’m not a samurai or ninja? I’m honored.”
Police Officer O.C.C.
You dress like your last name is Jensen and deal with crims and monsters. It notes that cybernetic implants are common, and another thing is common is being in the pocket of one corporation or another. Some are even ninja or spies planted by corporations as well. They get investigative and combat skills, but are surprisingly light on skills for a class that that doesn't get anything in the way of special abilities. Oh, 25% chance.
Rifts RPG & World Books
It notes you can play a variety of other characters from other books, like Chiang-Ku dragons, "Kilin", "Dragons: European style", True Atlanteans, Herbalists, and then weirder entries like "Hindu Gods" (wait, can I play Vishnu, then...?) or Minions of Splugorth (even though there's no connection between Japan and Atlantis and they're a literal world apart). Anyway! Buy more books!
A little short this time while I make space for the cybernetics section coming up.
“The dragon 'borgs were a logical step, considering the world the people of the Republic of Japan have been thrown into.”Original SA post
Rifts World Book 8: Japan Part 14: “The dragon 'borgs were a logical step, considering the world the people of the Republic of Japan have been thrown into.”
”Rising sun on my chest, rising sun behind me… JAPAN, do you get it?!”
Cyborgs of Japan
So, we're told 20% of the Republic's population are cyborgs, which... why? I don't know. Maybe people have tragic steakhouse accidents all the time, or maybe cyberarms are just fashionable. Of course, in the military, enhancements are common and the number jumps to 33%. Military cyborgs are required to have a lot of their weapon systems decommissioned to transition to civilian life. And, of course, there are illegal body chop-shops that will make you into the cyber-samurai of your dreams. Of course, we're told that Shinto religious authorities object, but that feels like an oversimplification of Shintoists as basically just hippie druids, but it's not the first time Rifts has fumbled its way around a living religion, nor will it be the last. Summaries of the cyborg stats from the corebook are copy-pasted in, but now Ichto and H-Brand apparently make cyborg armor that just flat has 20% more M.D.C., as if cyborgs weren't already walking walls of hundreds of M.D.C. as it is.
Republic Cyborg Soldier O.C.C.
So, in the Republic, cyborg soldiers are treated as big heroes without stigma. The military tries to screen out mentally unstable sorts to apparently major success, and 20% of troops are full cyborgs and 13% are partial. (I guess once you go cyber you don't go halfway.) Despite the name, this class can be used for Ichto cyborgs (which is the only way to play a dragon cyborg, which we'll see real shortly). Unfortunately, their mental endurance requirement to play them gives you less than a 5% chance of getting to roll one up, which makes one wonder how the hell 33% of the military qualifies. They get a broad mix of skills from computers to piloting to physical skills, and a paltry selection of other skills. Under equipment it notes they get access to computer games, so they can play Cyborg Justice and be suitably horrified.
So, you can go on to live a healthy life as a cyborg after service, though you get all of your weapon or spy systems removed. However, if you can show you're working in security or the like, you might be allowed to keep smaller weapon systems, or you can decide to just leave the country and give up your citizenship to wander the earth like Caine from Kung Fu. Yep, apparently just walking out of your country with millions of dollars of cybernetics to go become a mercenary is an option.
Alternately, you can be retrofitted with bio-systems and get downgraded to be near-human, but you can have a clone body grown and get your brain skull-swapped into the clone body. There are people that insist putting a living brain in a clone body is murder, but they're not likely to get it outlawed anytime soon. The idea that they can grow clones and all the technological and societal implications thereof will go on to be ignored from here on out.
The RK Post art stands out just a little.
Cyborgs get to live longer, about 160 years for somebody with heavy bio-systems or partial cyborg and 300 for a full cyborg. I guess they beat Alzheimer's and its ilk. Of course, getting clones basically resets your clock. The implication that you can probably become effectively immortal this way and all the technological and societal implications thereof will go on to be generally ignored.
Laws Governing Cybernetic Systems
Whose laws? Well, this is for the Republic. Anywhere else? Eh, you'll figure it out. It's a criminal act to do custom modifications of cybernetics, having concealed weapons or bionics without a permit, or using banned systems. Most crimes have increased penalties if cybernetics were involved somehow (like a bionically-enhanced beating). If it need be said, killing or maiming somebody for their parts is illegal, as is installing, selling, or smuggling cybernetics without a license. In addition, you have to be at least 16 years old to gain cybernetic implants and 20 years old to have bionics. There are, of course, penalties and numbers for all this.
Ugh, enough of this boring shit, let's see the cyborgs that get to be rad cyber-dragons!
i’m gonna be let down aren’t i
Not dragons that are cyborgs, to be clear. So, because the Republic is already cool with bionics, making people into cyborgs modeled after dragons was a "logical step". Yes. In Japan, making yourself into a dragon is a... "logical step".
Rifts World Book 8: Japan posted:
Nobody remembers whose idea it was, but this inhuman cyborg styling has been astoundingly popular.
What, did a bunch of researchers get drunk and wake up to a bunch of scribbled notes with no signature? One would think somebody would have taken credit for the designs here, but apparently not. This is a book of faceless, nameless Japanese stereotypes. Fuck the details, time for dragon cyborgs!
”People laughed at me because I told them I had a dragon soul. Not anymore. Well. Less, at least.”
Wing Blade 'Borg
So, this is a cyborg designed for scouting or to sneak through holes and air ducts. Well, as long as the air ducts are 3'6" wide, anyway. They're moderately tough but can't wear armor, get a tail with a vibro-blade, a decent particle beam in the mouth, grappling spikes, cheek blades, and no particle beam rod in the leg because it ain't got no legs. That's a deep cut for long-time readers, FYI. And in case you're wondering, no. The wings are not blades. Also, despite having huge wings, it needs an additional jet pack to fly. It also notes that if you're "assigned to demolitions", you get both demolitions and demolitions disposal as skills with a bonus. This is copy-pasted for every dragon type, which is weird, since there's no real flavor text as to why these frontline combatants would be "assigned to demolitions".
Huh. Kinda underwhelming for our first dragon cyborg.
”I mean, sure, I have some trouble opening jars, but fuck it! Gun hand!”
So, this is more of a straightforward military model, and looks more like a European dragon for whatever reason. For some reason, unlike the Wing Blade, they have a 2% chance of getting random insanity after the first year, which increases by 1% a year (so 3% after the 2nd, 4% after the 3rd, and so on). It goes as far as adjusting the insanity tables to add more dragon-specific delusions, as well. I'm not sure a 2% chance (regardless of your Mental Endurance, of course) is worth rolling, but Siembieda loves arbitrary insanity. We also get a note that there's an anime series named "Demon-Hunter Tsunami", and cyborgs can get paid around 10,000 cr as a consultant fee if they can provide exciting exploits for the show. Anime? Why, that's Japanese! Amazing!
So they're a bit tougher than wing-blades, and get a particle beam from the tail, a minigun with axe attached (roughly a medium rail gun), mini-missiles, and laser eyes. Pretty tough, all things considered, but nothing groundbreaking. Oh, and once again, huge wings, can only fly with an attached jet pack.
”It took me forever to remember to bow my head before I start shooting.”
"Imperial" Combat 'Borg
A non-humanoid dragon cyborg with four legs, this is designed to work like a tank. Their non-humanoid shape gives them a higher insanity rate, starting at 5% and going up by 2% a year. Some estimate that at least 30% of these guys are off their nut, but the government denies it.
They have a particle beam blast from the mount for decent damage, mini-missiles, lasers, more lasers, and a smoke dispenser. (Did you know: Rifts frequently has smoke dispensers, but no rules for smoke?) There are vibro-claws and a tail, and it's a bit tougher than the Tsunami. Feeling really underwhelmed, guys; these dragons are basically cyborgs with more weapon systems, but with lower M.D.C. because they can't wear armor. Ho-hum.
Big arms, tiny legs: the reverse t-rex.
"Flame Cloud" Attack 'Borg
So, like the Imperial, this is another non-humanoid form, but-
Rifts World Book 8: Japan posted:
This cyborg has the most advanced flight system available, although it has no wings — the designers decided that at the near-supersonic speeds the cyborg could attain, wings would only add stress.
I see you don't understand aerodynamics, but it's okay, Siembieda. Help is available. See your local library. In any case, they get the same insanity rate as Imperial cyborgs. They're not as tough as Imperials, but are tougher than Tsunamis, and have plasma-based flame breath, lasers, particle beam in the tail, and vibro-stuff. They do solid damage but nothing amazing, and can fly up to 500 MPH. And that's all for dragon cyborgs- mostly just cyborgs with cooler art and half-baked stats.
”Rising sun on my head, striped sweater, crazy implants… stylin’!”
Cybernetics & Bionics
I'm just going to use this space to type "cyberoid" again. Cyberoid.
Cybernetic Implants & Enhancements
We're told you can use cybernetics from Triax & the NGR and Underseas for Japanese characters, so buy those books, cyberoids! I won't cover every cybernetic geegaw here, as some are just reprints and a lot are just boring, but let's get started:
- Cosmetic Implants: These are implants that let you change the shape of your face... or breasts. Specifically breasts. "For example, a nose or breasts might flatten to prevent damage from a fall or to better fit a helmet or evening gown...." Man, I can't wait to argue that out with a GM. "I can't take damage from the fall, my breasts are only As right now."
- Computer Virus Carrier: A special computer system that can carry and release up to six computer viruses. Wow! Six! They have a generic 71% hacking chance against normal computers, 10% against corporate, 1% against police, and 0% against military. So, basically, great for getting somebody's Facebook details and family recipes, not great for most things PCs would actually want to use it for. Also "Reduces hacking time by 33%", as if we had a list of hacking times.
- Computerized Telephone Jack (illegal): This lets you make phone calls without paying... for 1d4 minutes before the MAN traces the SIGNAL and gives you a 500 CREDIT FINE.
- Cyber-Drone (highly illegal!): This is a system developed by a "tech-ninja clan" that lets you take control of somebody else’s cybernetics and bionics and puppet around any artificial parts they have (except for bio-comp systems, so you couldn't stop somebody's heart). The problem is... it never tells us what the interface is. It's implied they have to render the cyborg helpless or compliant in some way, but it's not actually stated that if they have to plug in a cable or wireless receiver or what.
- Data Chip (illegal): This lets you... store information on a chip on your head. Yes, having an ebook or a map in your head is illegal. What's more, you can only have one piece of information, trying to put two in your head causes random blackouts (GM sez fuck youuu), mental confusion (-30% on all skills, -4 on all combat rolls), painful headaches, and then madness (get those tables out). Also it penalizes psionics. And I only wanted to have two porn pics in my head... but then I got Johnny Mnemonic'd.
- Depth Gauge: How deep are you underwater? Now you know.
- Power Booster (illegal): Having a battery in your body is forbidden. Seriously. It's illegal. You might power a gun with it!
- Radio & Scrambler Implant (experimental & illegal): Note that regular radio implants are well-established, so... I'm not sure what's so "experimental" about adding a scrambler. Also, adding a scrambler to your radio reduces your psionic range and duration by 75%. Which means it's not the radio signal or the cybernetics that interfere with psionics, but encryption. Bizarre. "I know you can communicate with telepathy in utter secrecy, but having two ways to do that is just too much! Designer smash!"
- Signal Booster: This lets you increase your ability to receive radio signals by 25%; they probably mean an old antenna booster, not a signal repeater like the term is used for now. I was gonna make fun of it but now I know what they're trying to say and I'm not sure where I'm going with this now.
- Snaps, hooks, tabs, loops, buckles and Velcro body attachments: I'm not sure attaching a coathook to your forehead counts as "cyber", but I guess I'm not cyberoid enough to understand.
Occamsnailfile: Clearly all of the cellphone features listed above being illegal is the keitai companies clinging to their outdated handset model.
”Wouldn’t you go shirtless with a body like this?”
Bionic Weapons & Tools
Once again, we're directed to Triax & the NGR and Underseas. Once again, not covering everything, but it is interesting to note nothing here is "illegal"; I guess they assume that if you're a cyborg you're military-approved.
- Internal Energy Supply: I thought cyborgs already had this, but apparently not? Tack on a half to a full million credits for any previous cyborg made before this book, I guess.
- Laser Beam Eye: Requires you to have a bizarre looking eye (or eyes) or maybe have a weird over-sized head... so like, it's gotta be impressive, right? Nope. At 2d6 or 4d6 M.D.C., there are pistols that do more damage.
- Aerial Jet Thrusters: "It's a bird!" "It's a plane!" "No, it's a terminator with jet boots!"
- Security Clearance Chip: Used as a military or corporate ID badge. Blows you up if tampered with in any way, which seems like an interesting way to kill cyborgs.
- Underwater Propulsion: "It's a fish!" "It's a boat!" "No, it's a cyberoid with a propeller on his back!" "Ar, welcome to the sea, choombatas!"
“Most of the people of the New Empire follow the ancient ways, so only samurai carry the Daisho, however, mercs, adventurers and "techno-lovers" (just about everybody else) do not give the weapons or the samurai caste the reverence they deserve and may use a Daisho, katana or wakizashi separately.”Original SA post
Rifts World Book 8: Japan Part 15: “Most of the people of the New Empire follow the ancient ways, so only samurai carry the Daisho, however, mercs, adventurers and "techno-lovers" (just about everybody else) do not give the weapons or the samurai caste the reverence they deserve and may use a Daisho, katana or wakizashi separately.”
Patrick Nowak & Kevin Siembieda
Appro of nothing.
... is the old international name used by "Akizuki International", a company in the Republic of Japan. So, why are they still using it even if Japan is completely isolated and it's hard as hell to say "Armatech" in Japanese? Well, it's a mystery. They were a world leader in lasers, particle beams, bionics, nanotech, and in general your usual military-industrial complex kind of things, given they sell almost exclusively to the government and the samurai class. I guess we have a samurai class in the Republic too, now? Before the rifts, they got tasked with making variations on the SAMAS (revealed to stand for "Strategic Armored Military Assault System” for the first time) and the Glitter Boy for the American Empire, so look forward to rehashes of those later on. Nonetheless, their equipment gets leaked onto the black market (lower case) all the time. It's illegal and the government will confiscate them on sight. As such, they tend to be rarer and more expensive outside of the Republic. They're polite about it and won't press charges if it seems to be some ignorant foreign adventurer, but it's not like they'll make up for the money you paid. Less cooperative people tend to get shot.
What does the H stand for?
This is a company in the Kingdom of Otomo that makes cheap knockoffs of Armatech's stuff, and though it says they're "good, reliable items", it gives a number of vague penalties to inflict on PCs that buy their crap (less durable, heavier, jams at some GM-inflicted moment). The classic gotcha move. “Oh, you wanted to save 10% on your gun, the gun jams 10% of the time, that’s balanced, yeah?”
Sometimes they just draw a real gun and say it does mega-damage.
Odds & Ends
We get some idea of what "credits" are - debit cards, mainly, that somehow have a universal standard that's anonymous (bitcoins?) but usable by anybody with the card, because down with security and up with random muggings. Some places don't use credits (gasp!) and may use barter (choke!). Well, I guess that's why they call it Bartertown. It notes that the Republic uses an incompatible credit system based on the Yen, so your money's no good here, outsider! The Empire of the Sun finds swipe machines offensive to the spirits and god and the emperor so they use barter, the most efficient way to run an economy! Even the koku was better than that, but koku.
Then, suddenly, Siembieda is dropping truth bombs about lasers. We've seen this in previous books, but it's been a long time since we reviewed Rifts Conversion Book, so we can at it once again.
Do laser weapons have recoil when fired?
What Siembieda says: No.
What the truth is: Yes. But likely not enough to notice.
Do laser weapons make a noise when fired?
What Siembieda says: No. That's just Star Wars + Trek with their zappity-do-dah!
What the truth is: Lasers make a tremendous racket because they ionize the air like a lightning bolt. There's video on this, just look up pulse lasers.
What about other energy weapons?
What Siembieda says: Ion weapons and particle beam weapons make no sound.
What the truth is: There's no such comparable real-world weapon to an ion weapon, but if lasers ionize the air, it's very reasonable to assume an ion weapon would, and make a loud sound. Particle weapons are basically the same as a gun, just using a different kind of ammo and projection system (that is, particles rather than a bullet). Siembieda is wrong in thinking of particle beams as an “energy” weapon.
What Siembieda says: Ion weapons and Particle Beams weapons have no recoil.
What the truth is: Ion weapons would probably be the same as lasers and have negligible recoil. Particle beams would have recoil because they’re firing matter.
What Siembieda says: Plasma would have recoil due to the immense release of energy.
What the truth is: He’s correct but his explanation is wrong. Plasma would have recoil because you're firing matter, just like a gun. Just because it's in a plasma state doesn't make it "energy".
What Siembieda says: Plasma would only make noise due to the firing mechanism.
What the truth is: Plasma would, once again, probably make noise. It's a key component in "screaming" sonic weapons being developed and tested by the US military right now, after all!
What Siembieda says: Gamma guns would make no noise and have no recoil.
What the truth is: Presuming we're talking about some irradiating weapon, probably not. Siembieda is probably right. But there are no such weapons in Rifts.
What about rail guns?
What Siembieda says: Rail guns would make noise and have recoil just like a conventional firearm.
What the truth is: Siembieda is entirely right.
Call of Duty: Republic Roguemando
With that out of the way, we can then move on to actual equipment, starting with the SNARLS Weapon System developed by Armatech (and not H-Brand) used to sense and target invisible foes, as well as provide instant identification of supernatural beings and enhanced humans. There's the Armed Forces Personnel Backpack with a variety of wilderness survival items, a homing beacon, extra ammo and weapon parts, explosives, and some variants have a radio or rail gun ammo. We get a rehash of E-Clips, and are told H-Brand makes worse E-Clips than Armatech but stat-wise they're the same. We also have Energy Canisters that provide extra ammo but give an extra penalty to hit. Vibro-Blades get re-hashed, and of course there's a vibro-katana that does more than a vibro-sword (somehow, even though they both use the same tech) and also get vibro-tanto, vibro-wakazashi, vibro-kusari-gama (the chain is not vibro, tho), vibro-yari, vibro-naginata, vibro-bisento, vibro-tiger claws (in case you need to vibro-climb?), vibro-sai, and vibro-arm claws (like TMNT's Shredder has). There's also a vibro-jitte - somehow, a blunt weapon getting the "vibro" treatment. I think there might be other uses for that. There's also an "exploding shuriken" that creates an "energy field" that only does S.D.C., which I think is an error, but so much of this book is an error it's hard to tell. Whew! I'm all vibro'd out, if you know what I mean.
I have no idea what I mean.
Thanks to some characters getting the ability to convert S.D.C. damage to M.D.C., we get an extensive list of Japanese weapons mostly copy-pasted from earlier Palladium books with some new setting notes. To boil it down, the best one is the katana or the no-dachi, since they do the most damage and damage is the only mechanical metric. There is a cute note about vampire hunters running around with bokken, though. There’s a number of art pieces copy-pasted from the old Palladium Book of Weapons and Armor, as well. All we get for the weapon is a description, how much damage it does, and maybe a range. If you’ve seen a Palladium book you’ve already seen it, and I don’t feel the need to cover it. We then can start on with special weapons:
- AT-N20 Neural Stick: Taser tonfa, does no mega-damage and can't jolt full body armor, but against eligible targets it gives a massive debuff that largely will take somebody out of a fight.
- AT-AAD Anti-Armor Dissolver Missile or Grenade: A grenade filled with nano-bots that destroy mega-damage metal alloys. It takes a minute to weaken armor and about a half-hour to start destroying specific components, then goes inert after nearly an armor. As such, it's nearly useless in the pace of Rifts combat, but I guess it could be useful for sabotage. There’s a rant about how restricted this is to the military, how rare nanotech is, and how players will be lucky to get their grubby little hands on a single shot, etc.
- AT-23 Plasma Thrower: Like a flamethrower, but plasma so it does mega-damage. Does decent damage but runs out of ammo quick.
The gun parade marches on! A lot of these have H-Brand knockoffs listed that I won't go into detail on, they usually have reduced range or ammo.
Palladium paid for a drawing of a pen.
- AT-6 "Mini" Laser Pistol: This is a literal laser pen that does minor mega-damage. Criminals love it, police hate it! Yet the government-co-opted arms manufacturer still pumps them out... no, seriously, they drew a laser pen and put it in a book. Rifts!
- AT-8 Laser Pistol: This is a pistol that can be used by civilians... if you work for security or are a corporate bigwig. It's for use against "supernatural beings, mutants, and corporate ninja", but given it does only 1d6 Mega-Damage, all of the above are likely to laugh and cram this piece of crap right down your Structural Damage throat.
- AT-2 "Sharpshot" Police Special Laser Pistol: Does twice the damage of the AT-8, but twice crap is still crap. It has laser targeting for +1 to hit, but only when aiming. That's right, +5% extra accuracy makes this a "Sharpshot".
- AT-130 Particle Beam Pistol: A military-only weapon that does decent damage that H-Brand "doesn't even know exists". What? Pay attention, H-Brand! I guess they fell asleep.
- H-10 Combat Laser Pistol: A cheap civilian pistol that's somewhere between the AT-8 and AT-2, and is terrible, but at least it has deep ammo capacity. You do crap damage, but more of it.
- H-13 Ion Pulse Pistol: This really looks like a submachine gun. It even says it resembles as "pre-Rifts submachine gun", but no. It does as much as a light rail gun with its bursts, which is to say it does middling damage.
Like it says on the tin.
Huge scope, tiny bullpup.
- AT-23 Police Stun Rifle: A save-or-suck weapon against normal humans that aren't in environmental suits or partial cyborgs, or full cyborgs to lesser effect. Note that the full damage setting does mega-damage and bypasses armor, so it's actually better than normal weapons against people who aren't in effective spacesuits. Even if they don't die, they're likely to be fairly helpless in a fight.
- AT-84 "Sharpshot" Laser Rifle: A rifle-sized version of the AT-2 that is "a favorite of assassins and snipers", but I'm not sure why. It won't one-shot any armored targets and any old weapon is just as good against unarmored targets. "I'm the deadly and efficient assassin, I took him down in seven... no, eight shots!"
- AT-88 Combat Laser Rifle: Fires a laser or grenades for generally terrible damage from either. H-Brand doesn't copy it, and I can see why.
- AT-230 Particle Beam Rifle: A particle beam rifle that is "one of the most powerful rifles on Earth", which is only the kind of thing you can say if you haven't read the last couple sourcebooks. Hell, South America has one that does over double the damage this one does! Still, it does do solid damage.
- ATU-80 Underwater Assault Rifle: It can fire a crappy laser or a crappy "vibro-spear" and I'm really start to wear on these minor variations on weapons most PCs aren't going to want or touch. Wow, a spear that does 1d6 Mega-Damage and takes a whole attack to reload? Yeah, I'm sure they'll be all over that.
- H-15 "Scattergun" Shotgun: Yes, that's right, it's a shotgun named after a shotgun. It has a "short range" of 500 feet, like most shotguns, and fires explosive bullets for middling damage... twice. That's right. It has two shots that likely won't take anything down, and then takes a full attack to reload each shell. Practical.
- AT-600 Rail Gun: Essentially the same as the corebook light rail guns, only with a slightly lower strength requirement. Page-filler.
- AT-1200 "Super Rail Gun" A little more damage than the corebook medium rail runs with a very high strength requirement. Does about as much damage as the AT-230 above, which... has no strength requirement, and costs a third of what this does.
- H-600 Rail Gun: Essentially the same as the medium rail guns from the corebook, only... no, essentially the same. :zzz:
- ARC-2 "Nighthawk" Defense System: Why is it called the nighthawk? Does it fly? Well, no, but I guess it sees in the dark. It's basically an automated robotic sentry version of the AT-1200. We don't actually get any idea of its combat stats to attack with are, though- I can presume it doesn't get any combat bonuses and gets 4 attacks a round, but that's just by elimination.
- AT-25 Pump Grenade Launcher: Grenades are pretty useless for doing damage in Rifts and this is no exception, but it has a useless laser to go along with it.
Making Guns Out of Boxes: Drawing Guns the Rifts Way.
We then get a bunch of new explosives, like concussion missiles that do less damage than other missiles of their class but almost always knock down their targets. There's heavy-hitter missiles that supposedly do more damage at reduced range, but their damage is often the same or only slightly more than other missiles in their class. There's heat-seeking missiles that get a big attack bonus with no downside. We get torpedoes and depth charges reprinted for the handful of vehicles in here that use them. Grenades are mostly just reprints outside of the concussion grenades that cause knockdown but only minor damage. And finally, we have satchel charges that can be thrown 2d4 x 10 feet (irregardless of your strength), but have a blast radius of 30 feet. Good luck not blowing yourself up!... but you can plant them normally, that’s just shade thrown at players who want to use them as thrown weapons. Mind, throwing satchel charges is something soldiers have historically done since their invention, but fuck that, this is Rifts! Speaking of explosives, there's a CC-26 Bomb Detector... which only as a 65% chance of detecting bombs at 75 feet. Well, better than nothing, I suppose. Land mines get expanded rules, and there are a variety of special mine detectors you can now add to vehicles for 40%-90% roll, or you can use Detect Ambush or Detect Concealment rules to detect them at a -10% to -50% penalty. Yes, there are only penalties involved, never bonuses. Good luck not getting yourself blown up! :v:
Next: The Glitter Boys: Big in Japan.
“A trio of Oriental scientists from the Japanese Empire, stepped forward and bowed.”Original SA post
Rifts World Book 8: Japan Part 16: “A trio of Oriental scientists from the Japanese Empire, stepped forward and bowed.”
We get the laundry list of features that all power armor has, including: nuclear power, radar, combat computer, targeting computer, laser targeting, thermo-imaging, infrared, telescopics, radio, loudspeaker, voice-actuated lock, environmental protection, radiation shielding, and polarized vision. We also get the exciting new rules that "light" power armor (under 9') gets a tremendous Prowl penalty and "heavy" power armor can't sneak at all. We're also told "88%" of power armor pilots in Japan get a special cybernetic head-jack not listed or priced anywhere that gives them minor piloting and combat bonuses. So there's that.
Seriously how do you remember to include a depth gauge but not a cyberjack? What did I even review that section for? Marciniszyn, have you ever edited a book in your life?
Original American SAMAS power armor, not appearing in this book.
Japanese SAMAS Power Armor
So, we get the return of Erin Tarn out of nowhere, but don't worry, she hasn't visited Japan. Instead, she's here to reveal in prose that the SAMAS (Strategic Assault Manned Armor System, we learn finally) suits were originally developed by the American Empire in concert with Armatech. Originally made for police and rescue, they were instead brought in by the military for further development. The Coalition seemingly rediscovered the designs, and then went on to add spikes and skulls as is their nature. Erin talks about seeing this at the Great Library of Chi-Town before it was burned down by the Federation of Magic... or was it? She speculates that it was likely looted and the books secreted away, and then burned by Karl Prosek's fledgling government, who then used the "attack" as a means to murder those associated with the library and seize its secrets for themselves. Oh, and eliminate thousands of learned individuals as "conspirators". She credits only a handful of surviving staff - including Plato as the former head librarian. Which is a little bizarre, because we know by now that Plato is an ancient dragon, which seems like a bit much for the human-dominated nation. Well, maybe he was shapeshifted 24/7 or something. Or Siembieda forgot. One of the two!
We get a lot of handwringing over the horrors of the Coalition that has nothing to do with Japan. Well, back to the land of the rising sun and falling moon.
Kinda looks like a samurai if you squint so hard you close your eyes.
Armatech "Samurai Class" SAMAS Power Armor
This is essentially the SAMAS armor from the corebook with psuedo-samurai stylings because , replacing the rail gun with a modestly more powerful particle cannon, mini-missiles in the arms, and a neural stick as a sidearm. One of the many cases Rifts could be like "this is like X only with instead of Y it has Z" but instead they reprint the whole stat block, because we need that much more filler. Speaking of filler...
Sparkle or spikes?
Glitter Boy Power Armor
So Armatech had apparently had been provided copies of the glitter boy for research and development, and instead of researching or developing that much they mostly just copied them wholesale. There'll be new models designed for civil defense that don't cause the sonic boom-
save the planet from disaster
- er, um. Anyway. It calls them both tanks and infantry here and there, not really seeming to grasp the difference between the two, but mostly conventional glitter boys are used to defend the wilderness borders and shores of the Republic of Japan. We get a complete reprint of the glitter boy from the corebook, as if it wasn't right there in a book we don't already own, along with new and dodgier art, and then we get:
New Glitter Boys
Once again, we get the laundry list of drawbacks for the boom gun: that it causes a sonic boom that can be hazardous to unprotected soldiers and civilians, requires them to lock down, is shiny and hard to conceal, so they decided to create other variants. In case you're wondering, they're almost universally inferior - unlike the orbital glitter boys of Mutants in Orbit, almost all of the replacement weapons have around a third or less of the firepower of the original, making them into much more generic armored suits. This is the third time we've gotten additional glitter boys, for the record, with others appearing in Mutants in Orbit and Rifts World Book 5: Triax & the NGR.
Remember, camo doesn’t need different shading, it’s just random lines you scrawl all over something.
"Point" Glitter Boy
A smaller recon glitter boy, it doesn't really... glitter much. It has camo paint over the chrome job that's supposed to melt away when hit and somehow leave the glitter underneath intact. Sure, that makes sense.
Perfect sense. (No, there are no rules for how that works.) It has only about 2/3rds of the toughness of the original glitter boy, is about 50% faster, and replaces the boom gun with a "Multi-Barrel Laser Rifle (M-BiLAR) AT-5000" which is as shitty as its name is long, doing only 1/3rd the damage of the boom gun. It also has a light rail gun on its forearm, smoke dispensers, and an enhanced sensor suite including a camera to stream video back to HQ. In general, about the only thing that makes it really exceptional is the improved durability over other equivalent power armor suits. But there isn't a lot it can do that a SAMAS can't.
Guess which is the more damaging shoulder.
"Hawkeye" Glitter Boy
This is supposed to be the anti-aircraft glitter boy, essentially the same as the basic model but instead having the M-BiLAR laser that the "Point" has... which is actually worse than the core glitter boy at anti-aircraft duties. It has a slight bonus to hit (+2 when aiming), true, but it don't down most aircraft. Meanwhile, the core boom gun has more range and three times the damage. It isn't even a contest.
Where the "Hawkeye" redeems itself, however, is with a special nanotech-designed missile system that allows it to use medium-range missiles that are the size of mini-missiles (though the damage listed is that of long-range missiles...). Taking the damage listed, this means it can do around three to five times the damage of a boom gun with its missile volleys, which bizarrely, the Republic of Japan has opted not to use on any other armor or vehicle. I mean, a soldier with a rocket launcher that used these things would revolutionize warfare in Japan and blow up all the samurais, but apparently the technicians of the Republic are some kind of idiot savants. :down: In any case, it also gets... two other regular mini-missile launcher, for some reason, I guess if it runs out of its super-missiles it can go back to those.
Optional GB Weapon Systems
We get several alternate replacements for the boom gun, including:
- AT-1800 All-Purpose Rail Gun: A slight improvement on the medium rail gun. Actually better than M-BiLAR, which once again makes me wonder why they bother with the M-BiLAR.
- Underwater M-BiLAR AT-5500: A blue-green laser (see my review of Underseas as to why this doesn't make science sense) that can fire underwater but has slightly reduced range. As mentioned in Underseas, there are no listed penalties for firing lasers underwater anyway.
- GMS-APM Launcher: A mini-missile box that can fire up to 12 at a time, proving once again one of the few things that can top the boom gun is just firing shit-tons of missiles. It'll cost ridiculous amounts of money, of course, but hopefully the Republic is footing your missile bill.
Voted “most likely to get shot down in a first-person shooter”.
Moving away from the glitter boy parade, we move on to the Power-Spy, which is really more like an enhanced suit of normal armor than actual power armor. It provides more protection, has nanotech healing packs... as if a normal human could survive most damage in Rifts long enough for any nanobots to repair it... and enhanced strength. It lets you run faster and jump higher, has a ion gun to fire shots from your nipple zone, and vibro-blades in the wrists. It specifically notes it doesn't have the normal Prowl penalty that power armor now suddenly gives. 'Salright, I guess. There's an H-Brand version with lower stats that gives a mild prowl penalty instead.
Remember, guns don’t have to point at the enemy, they can just stick out any which way in RIfts!
This is about as ninja as a bandana on your forehead that says "NINJA" in English letters.
Yeah, like that. However, unlike most of the ninja shit in this book, for once the irony is deliberate. This is designed to be styled to appeal to weeaboos and ninja fans, but has the same -50% Prowl penalty as other power armor, and no real ninja would be caught dead in it. It has relatively low M.D.C. for a power armor, a dinky ion gun located in the chest, a forearm vibro-blade, and mini-missile launchers. It also has some special "ninja" systems like a grappling hook, magnets in the hands and feet to climb "surfaces containing metal", and a self-destruct mechanism. Mostly a piece of crap, but once again, the joke is intentional for a change.
”My shoulder plates are actually detachable hovercraft!”
IPA-40 Dai-Katana Bugei
Despite the name, this has no relation to John Romero or the bitches he makes. Instead, it's a light samurai-themed suit of power armor that runs around at 100 mph with limited flight (where "limited" means "five hours", lawl) and is supposed to as frontline skirmishers for Ichto. They're modestly tough, with an average rail gun (sometimes loaded with silver rounds), mini-missiles from the shoulders, and vibro katanas from the wrists, which... doesn't seem to be a good way to hold katanas, but I'm not a vibrokendo grand master or anything. Oh, and it has a head laser it'll never use, but Siembieda likes getting to shoot light from his temples, I guess. Pew pew.
No, it doesn't actually have a daikatana.
I think this was drawn as a giant robot and they just decided it wasn’t.
IPA-45 Ikusa (or "Warrior")
That's a confusing nickname.
- Cyber-Ninja: "Look out, they have warriors!"
- Juicer-Ninja: "What? Of course they have warriors."
- Cyber-Ninja: "No, warriors, like the power armor!"
- Juicer-Ninja: "So they have warriors in Warriors?"
- Cyber-Ninja: "I guess? Oh, look, one stabbed me while we were trying to who's on first this shit!"
- Juicer-Ninja: "Maybe there is a genius to the name after all, for I, too, am stabbed!"
Once again, this is another power armor designed after samurai from Ichto, this time with the oni-styled face mask. Man, if only this logic applied to our own countries, all of the American power armor could look like Civil War soldiers or plastic army men. Obviously, you style all your shit after ancient warriors, and only one type of ancient warriors. Where's the yamabushi power armor? The sōhei power armor? The yoriki-styled power armor? Nope, just samurais. Anyway... it's about half as fast as the Bugei but is slightly tougher, has a slightly bigger rail gun, mini-missiles, a shoulder laser, and, of course, a vibro-daisho. All these robo-samurai is starting to get pretty wearying. There's also some talk about how H-Brand copying the Ikusa nearly led to war from Ichto, because that's a logical response to somebody making shitty knock-off weapons you could smack down in a heartbeat.
What I said about guns going any direction? Fuckin’ double that here.
Moving away from samurais for a moment, we get the grenadier, which looks more like a Battletech escapee. It's actually damn tough, about twice as tough as any other IPA power armor and about 2/3rds as tough as a glitter boy. Surprisingly, perhaps because how the burst fire rules weren't considered, this can actually top the glitter boy in firepower, since it can fire eight grenades from its IR-50 "Super-Launcher" as a burst. And even though grenades are crap, enough high explosive or plasma grenades actually tops the boom gun in damage and actually gets a burst radius as well. It also has mini-missiles that can swarm out of its ridiculous launch tubes aimed every which way (but loose), which can also top a GB's damage output. Though a lot of power armor get sold as "glitter boy killers", this is one of the few that might manage it.
It looks really, really dumb, though.
”JUSTICE RAINS FROM- wait, I’m unarmed?”
IPA-60 Tazu-Tengu Power Armor
Tazu means "rice-field stork", by the way. So it's a stork bird demon. It's a light power armor designed mainly to fly at 350 MPH, and has no notable weapon systems, though it apparently carries grenades. Civilians can use it with the license, but the civilian versions are brightly colored to distinguish them from their military counterparts. Apparently well-to-do people like using it to travel around looking like birds. Though it's described as quiet, it has the same Prowl penalty most power armors get.
Kicks the shit out of normal tengu, to be sure.
Man, the Superman extended family just keeps getting weirder and weirder.
Actually, this is just the heavier military version of the Tazu-Tengu, and is slower but tougher, adds a small mini-missile launcher (free with each box of Mega-Cracker-Jacks™), also uses grenades, crummy wrist lasers, and... that's all. It's similar enough to the SAMAS but lacks a strong primary armament, requiring the user to lug a gun around. Bizarrely, this armor has a special bonus to save against "electricity and electro-magnetic energy" and reduces damage from it, and it has a reduced prowl penalty even though the Tazu-Tengu doesn't, with no justification at all. Just does.
Searchlight or monster lure?
IPA-70 Mizu Mi
Rifts World Book Eight: Japan posted:
Mizu Mi translated means "water serpent."
Actually, my Japanese is pretty bad, but even so, I think that actually means "water beauty" in a pretty mangled sense. Snake or serpent would be "hebi". "Mizu no mi" would be "Fruit of the water." Japanese! The internet made it easier, at least. "Mizu Ri" would at least mean "Missouri", so there's that. Not that it looks like a snake either, instead being an underwater power armor that's fairly tough but seems designed more for work than war, with a plasma cutter, vibro cutter, mini-torpedoes, and the worst blue-green laser. It also has magnetic pads to cling to metal objects and special underwater sensors. Mostly just a flavor or utility thing to have, you wouldn't really want to fight in it.
Next: Mighty Robots, Mighty Vehicles.
“The mechanical behemoth was inspired by Armatech's dragon-borgs, but always trying to out do their old rivals, Ichto developed a giant robot vehicle that looks like an oriental dragon sheathed in armor!”Original SA post
Rifts World Book 8: Japan Part 17: “The mechanical behemoth was inspired by Armatech's dragon-borgs, but always trying to out do their old rivals, Ichto developed a giant robot vehicle that looks like an oriental dragon sheathed in armor!”
Well, "robot vehicles", actually, aka mecha.
Vulnerable to mecha-bees.
AT-1053 Ka-Kuma "Metal Bear"
Ooof. "Kuma" does mean bear, but "ka"? "Kakura" would be a water cooler. "Ka" on its own can mean a number of things... Fire bear? Beautiful bear? Mosquito bear? Nothing to do with metal. Not that just jamming together Japanese words willy-nilly works since the language relies so much on context, but those are closer definitions than Rifts provides.
Unsurprisingly, this is a bear-styled robot used largely as artillery and anti-aircraft, and is pretty tough, with surprisingly powerful artillery cannons that actually can do more damage than a glitter boy, but are limited to four shots per round regardless of the gunner's number of attacks (two per cannon), and can't fire at man-sized targets closer than 1000' because... they can't, shut up. It also as mini-and short-ranged missiles, and a positively decent rail gun and particle beams... but an ignorable laser turret and flamethrowers. Still, it's interesting to see them have a weapon system with genuinely different effect in limitations... even if there's no rules for spotting or aiming a weapon out at 7 miles. Just wing it!
Occamsnailfile: “Ka” is a rarely-used alternate reading for 金 which means ‘metal’ in the element sense (fire, water, etc) but is most commonly read “kin” for all occasions and also means “gold.”
Alien Rope Burn: I sit corrected!
Samurai Something Cat.
AT-1063 Hi-Tora "Fire Tiger"
This is supposed to be incendiary vehicle because "Many supernatural and magical creatures are vulnerable to fire..." So let's check, of the monsters introduced in this book:
- Oni (lesser, master, and mystic) take half damage from fire.
- Sura-Kappa take no additional damage from fire. Presumably boiling the water out of their head-bowl would give them issues but there's no mechanics for that.
- Goblins burn perfectly fine but you can also hurt them with a sharpened stick, so that's not much of an accomplishment.
- Goblin Spiders take double damage from fire.
- Japanese Imps take half damage from fire.
- Hannya Demons take extra damage from ordinary fire, but not from mega-damage fire like the Fire Tiger uses.
- Shikome Kido-Mi and Kumo-Mi Dragons have no vulnerability to fire.
- Asama-Tatsu Dragons are straight-up immune to fire.
Also it has vibro-blades because in Japan, everything has vibro-blades. Even the vibro-blades have vibro-blades.
IR-2015 Kani "Crab Walker"
"Kani"... does mean crab. Bravo, Rifts, maybe you're getting ahold of this language thing! But probably not. This is a car-sized crab that's used for underwater work, but is surprisingly fragile, only having about as much M.D.C. as the Tazu-Tengu. It has short-range and mini torpedoes, a blue-green laser that may as well be a pistol aimed out the window, a laser torch, and a plasma torch. In case one torch cannot perform its duties, another will be ready to stand in its place. Maybe it could face the crab mecha from Triax & the NGR for the battle for ultimate crab. What crab will win? What crab will win?
Shake hands with danger.
A non-combat robot, this is designed for construction and demolition, so obviously we need a detailed description and combat stats. Well, it has a combat variant to justify that, I guess. It's fairly tuff for something that doesn't fight, with special climbing and... tunneling abilities? It has buzzsaws, plasma cutter, laser torch, and comes with fusion blocks for demolition. Out of nowhere, we get random rules for trying to throw fusion blocks, likely trying to discourage their use as grenades given their high level damage. Throwing them is -4 to hit, and a human trying to throw one has a 1 in 6 chance of blowing in your face, and only about a 20% chance of detonating as planned on impact. Fuck you, players, for your clever tricks! You'll plant your charges and set a timer like Thoth intended.
You can add lasers or missile launchers if you gotta, but why bother? Get a real mech, you pleb.
”No longer do we have to hang a soldier off the mecha’s chest just to have tiny arms.”
This generically-named samurai bot is built for mountain and urban combat, because the two are very much alike. Think about it. Think harder. You might think I'm wrong, but you'll see the truth. You all will. Okay, we all know this is just a generic ground-pounding samurai gundam with mini-missiles, rail gun, lasers, laser torch, grenades (seriously, it carries tiny man-sized grenades to be thrown by its tiny arms, which is terrible at the scale it’s supposed to fight at), and tiny arms to carry tiny weapons that do dinky damage on its scale but it looks cool and being useful is overrated. Very, very cookie cutter at this point, it’s only gimmick isn’t terribly practical.
”You can’t come to the party!”
So, this is supposed to be the exclusive Ichto creation that you can only get if you're their double-plus exclusive bestie, a 30' oni-bot with wings that are actually a detachable drone robot that wants to be a folk singer and god help me my brain is just melting into references to try and save itself. Being a 30' robot in a game where size and durability are only vaguely related, it's nearly as tough as a glitter boy. It makes sense to someone, I’m sure. It as medium-range, short-range, and mini-missiles. There are lasers, rail guns, plasma guns, and vibro-blades. It's a bunch of weapon stats barfed across two pages.
The drone can fly for 50 miles before radio becomes too weak to use, even though we've been told before that radio signals are more limited than that because rifts n' magic. It mostly serves as a spybot but can fire missiles and has tiny weapon hands than fire... huh. It doesn't say what they fire. They just fire generic damage.1 There's a bit about the Republic of Japan being up in arms that Ichto has developed this and won't sell them one and it's causing friction. But given the Republic has glitter boys and SAMAS... es and aren't exactly sharing, they need to drink a hot glass of shut the fuck up, horrendous babies.
”It looks like a tengu, so we call it…” “... the banshee!” “What the hell is a banshee?”
So, this is largely designed as part of the campaign to reclaim The Zone from monsters and the supernatural, though it looks like a rejected Coalition design with its skull face and bulky Spess Mehren-styled design. It's supposed to be be the giant-sized version of the tengu power armors, and there's apparently tension between Ichto and the Republic of Japan over Ichto selling this on the open market, which Ichto responded to by lowering the price from 31 million to 28 million. Quite the bargain? So it's got about average toughness, flies around at 260 MPH, has a special sonic cannon that does modest damage that's boosted underwater... wait, what? Wouldn't you use that tech on the Mizu Mi, which actually is designed to go underwater? Well, like the Republic of Japan, Ichto doesn't really utilize their new weapon technology. Mini-missiles, lasers, and swords round this out, which really feels more like an up-sized SAMAS (in hit points, if not in firepower) rather than anything particularly new.
Also, why is it named after the Banshee? Well, I suppose they can name things after Western monsters if they want, cultural appropriators that they are.
When it looks like that, no wonder it turns invisible.
Rifts World Book 8: Japan posted:
The robot is called the Gemini because it has two faces, the visible visage of a combat bot and an invisible blur!
That's... not how... that has no relation to Gemini and the related mythology... I mean, why not the "ghost" or "spectre" or "invisibot"? Well, misunderstandings aside, apparently its cloaking device is related as to why it's so generic-looking, as it has no flair or protruding elements to interfere with it. This is still experimental and ther are only a few dozen. We get some percentages of how it's easy to spot - which is all "proprietary", none of these rules are used for anything else, or relate to skills like Detect Concealment. Despite being a stealth unit, it's pretty tough. It can fire when cloked, but it reduces the damage of its laser by half- not a big deal, since the laser is hardly its main weapon. After all, it has mini-missiles and a vibro-sword that do more damage, and optionally carries a heavy rail gun. It makes me wonder why they bothered putting the laser on, though the rail gun apparently has a quirk where it deactivates the robot's cloaking mechanism for 2 seconds and reveals its position, and it hints that "Other problems may also appear with this experimental, giant
rail gun." for GMs that want carte blanche to punish PC Gemini pilots who "abuse" the stealth mechanism.
Requisite kaiju monster robot box: checked.
IR-4000 Tatsu "Dragon"
Rifts World Book 8: Japan posted:
The Tatsu (meaning "dragon")...
"Tatsu" was obviously taken from the Japanese name for dragon in reference to the fifth sign of the zodiac, but it's not a general term for a dragon. It's like saying "taurus" means "bull"; technically, yeah, but I'll never talk about running away from a taurus, or talk about taurus being loose in a china shop. The term should have been "ryuu", most likely. Fumbles with Japanese aside, this is the toughest bot in the book, even tougher than the glitter boy - but at 50' long, it really should be. It has a flamethrower and a plasma cannon in the mouth (of course), and-
Rifts World Book 8: Japan posted:
Each nostril of the robot is actually a mini-missile launcher!
You know, I joke about Siembieda taking any possible exhaust port or circular protrusion and making it into a weapon (and if he wants to add a weapon that isn't in the art, he just calls it concealed), but Kevin. Kevin. We have to talk, pal. You need to cut it out, because this is just silly. The moment a GM describes a dragon firing snot missiles the table is going to lose it. And, yes, I'm sure some poster is readying their post about how this is unironically awesome, but I don't think just being farcical is your intent here, Kevin. It can bite and claw and horn, has palm lasers (not in the art), tail lasers (not in the art), long-range shoulder mini-missiles (not in the art), and a prehensile tail (... which I guess is in the art). The missiles are the only thing with any punch - this thing has a lot of armor but not many ways to dish out damage otherwise. It probably can't compete with actual dragons, not because dragons can deal out a lot of damage, but just because they generally will have three times the damage capacity this thing has.
Next: It’s no longer cosplay if all the armor looks like samurai armor.
“The armor vaguely resembles the armor in North America, but has a more Japanese/samurai flavor to its design.”Original SA post
Rifts World Book 8: Japan Part 18: “The armor vaguely resembles the armor in North America, but has a more Japanese/samurai flavor to its design.”
So close to being over with the weapons parade, but not yet. We get some notes that customization and other models of armor are common, so if the art doesn't match an armor actually listed here, we have an excuse. In addition, there are several suits of armor from the corebook that are available here, even though the manufacturer (Northern Gun) doesn't have a presence here and likely doesn't even know Japan exists. Well, maybe a shipment of them fell through a rift. We get new exciting rules for armor with full environmental protection losing parts of that protection when at 25% of M.D.C. or lower, but this will not be mentioned elsewhere, so you can probably just ignore it. Kind of an important rule just kind of done in a throwaway fashion.
This section starts out with the non-armor KM-200 Jet Pack and KM-250 Underwater Propulsion, manufactured by Kiramitsu, that Republic of Japan vehicle manufacturer only mentioned once otherwise. Moving on to the mighty parade of armors!
”Kuru”, “Trooper”, and “Infiltrator” armors, respectively.
- AT-A11 Kuru Street Armor: "Kuru" means "hunchback" or "rickets" as far as I know, so not sure what they're trying to say here. The standard armor for Republic of Japan police and light military, it's about average compared to the corebook at 65 M.D.C. There's knockoff versions that could have lower M.D.C... or higher, and greater sneaking penalties.
- AT-A14 Infantry "Trooper" Body Armor: The main infantry armor for the Republic, this has 95 M.D.C., making it close to the Triax armors... but it has a special mobility penalty when doing physical skills, which makes it objectively worse. It also has tiger stripes, which I think makes it a member of Tiger Force.
- AT-A15 Marine Heavy Combat Body Armor: Designed for underwater usage, this gives 120 M.D.C. along with strength enhancements. It's nearly impossible to sneak in it, but I guess you can swim in it as seemingly intended since there's no actual penalty to swimming when lugging around 40 pounds of armor.
- IA-100 Infiltrator Body Armor: Used by sneaky sorts, ninjas included, this is a pretty generic bodysuit with pads all over. The funky eye thing is supposed to be a camera and telescope... well, monoscope, if it only covers one eye. It has an M.D.C. of 60, which is decent considering its special climbing features and extra hacking computer and that is has a laser or blade in the wrist. However, despite being the "Infiltrator", it still gives a modest sneaking penalty, even though there are heavier armors in the corebook that don't. Whups.
- IA-130 "Sumo" Body Armor: Because it makes you look fat, get it? Get it? So it has a whopping 145 M.D.C. and a modest exoskeletal strength bonus, but gives a -60% on physical skill rolls. So if you actually try and perform sumo in this, you'll likely get knocked on your ass faster than the judge can say "ippon".
- HA-4 and HA-5 "Hiker" Body Armor: A crappy non-environmental suit at 45 M.D.C., and is mostly used by... farmers and traveling merchants and stuff. The HA-5 costs more, weights more, but is more popular because it looks like traditional samurai armor. They sure do love them some samurai, I tell you what. (Only the HA-5 is pictured, the HA-4 is a mystery.)
- HA-6 and HA-7 "Frontiersman" Body Armor: M.D.C. 70, the HA-7 is a version that looks like samurai armor and costs more, no art, moving on.
- HA-20 Juicer Environmental Armor: This makes you look like a skull samurai. A skullurai, in other words. It's M.D.C. is 75, and it has no real features that make it particularly appealing to Juicers other than skulls.
”Sumo”, “Hiker”, and Juicer armors, respectively.
Not too much exciting here, there are some with interesting features but bad implementation. Still, if you’re in Japan, this is likely all you can get.
Next: Roll to care for your tiny tree, ninja ‘borg.
“The creation of a good floral arrangement is a matter of honor to those who practice ikebana; a bad job will be scorned even if done by the most heroic of warriors.”Original SA post
Rifts World Book 8: Japan Part 19: “The creation of a good floral arrangement is a matter of honor to those who practice ikebana; a bad job will be scorned even if done by the most heroic of warriors.”
Japanese Skills of Note
Is this the part where we take every dog-damned niche Japanese art form and make it into a skill like every other '90s RPG touching on Asia? I think it is! True to form, we get skills for Bonsai, Calligraphy, Floral Arrangement, Go, Haiku... and at least you can use your existing Gardening skill for Zen gardens now. Man, let's quote some real horseshit:
Rifts World Book 8: Japan posted:
In many cases one's skill at Go is seen as much more important than ability in the fighting arts. A victory at the intelligent game of Go easily outweighs any ten wins in single combat.
No shogi, hanafuda, mahjong, or pachinko skills, for better or worse. I can already see the descriptions, though. "A skilled player of pachinko can become richer than a thousand daimyos!" We get a variety of new military skills, many of which from other books, and of course Japanese Mythology gets its own special skill. And now there's a whip proficiency, so you can use... all those... useful... whips? And chains? That exist in all these books?
For some reason there is a picture of alligators.
Hand to Hand Combat
Of course because we're in Japan, we get new martial arts, because they have better punches than Americans (it's explained that martial arts didn't survive the cataclysm in America but did in Japan, because...)
So, then we get a complete revision of the hand-to-hand system! Dog help me.
We get mechanics for defensive throws ("Automatic Body Flip / Throw"), special backflip and cartwheel defenses and attacks (not referenced by any attack or martial art here, so why...?), body flips (a reliable way to stunlock people), break fall (like rolling with impact, but straight up halves or eliminates damage, but nothing adds to it), notes that mega-damage creatures doing death blows against other MDC critters prevents them from regeneration, drop kicks that let you simultaneously dodge and attack (but with no bonuses), the damage of different hand-to-hand techniques (do nothing but jump kicks for max damage or sweeps to eat up their attacks, FYI), clarifications on disarms, putting holds on characters (reliant on Prowess, not Strength, so Dodgy Baby can wrestle Slowy Giant any day), leap attacks (take up all your actions for a round but... provide no significant advantage, weird), and paired weapons where you give up your ability to parry to do two attacks. I just made that a whole run-on sentence and it's probably clearer than the actual rules.
Be my samurai.
So, we get new hand-to-hand styles, which now give bonuses to physical attributes (and mental endurance, in some cases) in case you want to stack your strength to bench-press cottages. This includes:
- Basic Martial Arts Equivalent to Judo: Why not just say "Judo"? Well, this offers slightly better bonuses than the martial arts in the corebook. Gives +5 attacks by 14th level.
- Aikido: This gives some crazy nonsense like an automatic dodge at 3rd level and doubling your P.P.E. at 10th level, wizards take notice. Pretty solid all around otherwise. The best style that isn't class-exclusive, because automatic dodge at 3rd level is ridiculously good as far as benefits go, usually restricted to super-speed characters like Juicers.
- Jujitsu: Bizarrely, cannot be selected by "honorable" alignments (principled or aberrant) because I guess this fights dirty. Kind of underwhelming after Aikido - it gets a lot of critical bonuses but those only come up a minority of the time.
- Karate: This is supposed to be a variation of Japanese Kyokushinkai Karate, and if you don't know what that is, it's how Ken and Ryu fight minus the fireballs and dragon punches and ansatsuken. Though it's a powerful striking style, that's not that useful in a game where everything is mega-damage.
- Kendo: Though it deals with swordsmanship, this is weird in that the actual rules refer exclusively to hand-to-hand combat, including sweep kicks and palm strikes. I... what? What? I... what?
I can only guess they cut and pasted the style from something else. I mean, the text implies they know what Kendo is, but man, the rules most certainly do not.
”And BEHOLD, a HAND!
Mystic Martial Art Powers
Of course, it's not enough for Japan to be objectively better at punching. Their punches are magical, too. Of course, despite this being Japan, technique names go between Japanese and... some Chinese language. I don't know clearly enough.
Arts of Invisibility
Only two classes get these - naturally, the mystic ninja gets a bunch, while the bishamon fighting monk gets to pick a measly one. They are:[*]Art of Stealth: You automatically get to succeed on stealth checks unless somebody's searching, at which point you get a measly 40~60% chance of success. You also get a 50~75% chance to use "Jung Hua", the art of using stealth in water. Swimming skill sold separately.
- Art of Hiding or Inpo: “Inpo” is a way of saying “impotence” in Japanese, so that’s a thing. Maybe they meant “ninpo”? Like the art of stealth, this lets you hide automatically unless somebody's searching and the area is well lit, in which case your chances are 60~75%. Also you can stay still for days, in case you're looking to get into a career as a hat rack.
- Art of Evasion of Hsing Tsia: In real life, this is supposed to be a technique where you surprise an enemy to stun him long enough to walk around him and hit them in their side or behind. In Palladium life, this lets you remain behind somebody's back like some tactical stealth action nonsense, and once again is automatic unless they're aware, at which point you have a 50~65% chance of avoiding notice. This also allows you to just attack somebody repeatedly from behind, at which point you have to roll that percentage to stay hiding. However, this doesn't work if they back up against a wall or if a third party can point you out - yeah, this only works against one person at a time. If there's a third person, they can shout "You have a ninja on your back!"
- Art of Vanishing or Sun Shih K'an Chien Chih: This, on the other hand lets you vanish from plain sight so you can start using one of the other invisibility arts. The chance is a surprisingly high 85%, but can drop as long as 30% based on the environment. It specifically notes that it takes an attack to do, which is a surprising touch of clarity for Palladium.
- Art of Disguise or Hensho-Jutsu: A real ninja thing, as much as any ninja thing can be said to be real. This is basically using posture and body language to disguise yourself along with dress and the like. Mostly, this lets you automatically blend into crowds, but you have to roll with smaller groups which is like 50~65%, -40% if actually stopped and questioned. If you have disguise, this lets you make very effective disguises. This ability doesn't work if you're "dressed in some outrageous manner"... that is, like a stereotypical ninja. Ooops.
- Art of Mystic Invisibility: This, on the other hand, is straight-up magic invisibility through "clouding minds" and so requires increasing amounts of P.P.E. depending on how many witnesses are present. It also works against magic and psionic powers, as well as technological sensors, on account of the mind-clouding. They get a flat attempt to save on a 19 or higher on a 20 sided die. Are there any bonuses on that roll? Who knows!
The Bishamon Fighting Monk, Sohei Warrior Monk, Yamabushi Mountain Priest, and Demon Queller classes get these abilities. The main ability that's a big deal with these is being able to convert your S.D.C. into M.D.C. temporarily by expending P.P.E., which allows you to perform shenanigans with anything that radically improves S.D.C. While you're not likely to become invincible this way, it's possible to get as tough as a suit of power armor this way- through the power of mystic Asian-ness!
- Stone Ox: Reduces fatigue (not something tracked by the game) and increases carrying capacity. Also ups S.D.C. by 40-160, which is handy with the power mentioned above.
- Combination of Kangeiko & Shochu Geiko: And here I thought Exalted had clunky power names. Kangeiko is your stereotypical meditation under a freezing waterfall, while Shochu Geiko is apparently the opposite, meditating out in the sun. This lets you walk around barefoot in all kinds of weather for a full day at a time, like Quick Kick from G.I. Joe. (So that's how he did it!) Anyway, it also makes you immune to stun and paralysis and withering atemi.
- Iron Hand or Kanshu: The only reference I can find to this is for a Uechi-Ryu kata, not what’s described here. In Palladiumadia, these are basically callus-building exercises for the hand, but because they're Japanese, they make your hands magical and immune to flames, and allow you to do dinky mega-damage (1d6+4, only really good for just punching holes in normal people).
- Chi-Gung Mega-Damage Skin: I think they’re referring to “qigong”, or breathing exercises. But in Rifts, this gives you 90 extra S.D.C., makes you immune to most S.D.C. sources of harm (Armor Rating of 18), and lets you turn your hit points into Mega-Damage as well. Good to stack with something like Stone Ox so you can literally take a nuclear weapon to the face... on an average damage roll, at least.
- Dam Sum Sing: ... sure this isn't an appetizer? Well, that’s mostly what a google search for this turned up, and now I’m hungry. This reduces damage from blunt sources by half, which is a good place to start if you want to take boom gun rounds to the balls for your traveling show of wonders. "He'll be okay, folks! He's Japanese! Japanese people can do that!"
- Wrist Hardening: Uh, this gives you really strong wrists which gives a bonus to escape from holds, or parry mega-damage attacks with your wrists. Yes, you can stop a lightsaber. Just not with your hands. Wrists only. It's like Wonder Woman, only without the bracelets of (whatever they're called right now).
- Kick Practice or Chagi: Chagi is Korean for “kick”. Lets you do a 6d6 mega-damage roundhouse kick, or a 5d6 mega-damage power kick that takes two attacks to perform. I wonder which one is better...? Even if you have mega-damage strength that ups it to 10d6 the power kick still isn’t useful. Also lets you jump around like a jackrabbit if you have to.
In Europe, the pointy wizard hat. In Japan, the bamboo wizard hat.
These are martial arts powers that may as well be magic spells, but they’re not, because they’re… martial arts powers. In fact, they even have P.P.E. costs and are “one aspect of Japanese magic”, but you can still only learn them by punches and meditation. In real life, joriki refers to the meditative aspect of concentration, which has “zen” slammed onto it as an ungainly appendage. “Zen joriki” might make some sense, but not for what they’re talking about.
- Calm Minds: “Using this ability is like spreading oil on the troubled waters of an angry mob.” It basically lets you mind control people into not fighting, though they can do anything else.
- Karumi-Jutsu: Close enough to the legit term of “body lightening techniques”. This lets you reduce your weight to walk on fragile surfaces or jump really far.
- Two Minds: Probably the oddest “martial arts” ability here, this lets the user split themselves into two bodies, one representing the hun (the “cloud soul” of Chinese mysticism) and the other the po (the “white soul” or “moon soul” - not “bone soul” as Rifts claims). The Hun body can do anything cerebral, but is useless at fighting, while the Po can fight, but not do anything particularly intelligent. Kind of interesting as a multi-action power that doesn’t particularly break the action economy (though a cunning player could still it exploit it). It splits your S.D.C. between the two bodies, though, so its combat utility might be questionable depending on the circumstances.
- Vibrating Palm: This lets you do start shaking an object to break it apart, doubling the damage every round (15 seconds). This does S.D.C. or M.D.C. depending on whatever the object’s made of, up to 512 damage total. Since it takes so long, it’s not useful in a fight, but it’s useful for non-combat demolition.
- Vital Strike Atemi: This is a special pressure point attack that goes directly to hit points against non-M.D.C. opponents as long as they aren’t wearing full-body suits of armor. Of course, there’s a loophole that you can use melee weapons to do this, so use a mega-damage weapon like a vibro-blade and instantly kill any mundane foe. Wait, you can already do that without this power! So… yeah. Also lets you do mega-damage against monsters, though not against armor.
- Withering Flesh Atemi: Lets you do massive S.D.C damage with deadly pokes, which isn’t terribly useful, but actually lets you do big (like, rail gun damage) to supernatural monsters, but only enough to reduce their M.D.C. by half, at which point it stops working. Ooops. And for the record, “atemi” refers to any hard strike, not just those to magical vital points that Palladium presumes.
“Frequently, an oni will be identified by its appearance, ‘the three-armed oni,’ ‘lion head oni,’ ‘fire oni’; or by its disposition, such as, ‘wicked and mocking;’ and/or by its activities, ‘a demon most foul,’ ‘child-stealing goblin,’ ‘the angry oni,’ ‘destroyer of temples,’ or ‘fiend of the wind.’”Original SA post
Rifts World Book 8: Japan Part 20: “Frequently, an oni will be identified by its appearance, ‘the three-armed oni,’ ‘lion head oni,’ ‘fire oni’; or by its disposition, such as, ‘wicked and mocking;’ and/or by its activities, ‘a demon most foul,’ ‘child-stealing goblin,’ ‘the angry oni,’ ‘destroyer of temples,’ or ‘fiend of the wind.’”
Monsters of Japan
”Hulk not have extra arm, that just cowardly oni saying ‘hello’!”
One Hundred Demons
So, the concept of oni here for whatever reason doesn’t represent the “classical” oni - that is, horn or horns, fangs, garishly colored skin, loincloth, and club. It can, but Rifts Japan instead makes them random monsters, taking the varying depictions of oni and using that to serve random tables to design random monsters with instead. They come from a dimension “linked to Japan” and are largely just treated as low-end extradimensional demons. Dumb, sadistic, and thuggish, they organize into tribes and fight amongst each other as much as fighting humanity, or just casually betray each other because what else did the frog expect of the scorpion or something. They only steal simple technology and sometimes bow down before more powerful supernatural entities, so they can serve as generic thugs.
Rifts World Book 8: Japan posted:
They are also notorious for kidnapping children and women as slaves and for diabolical purposes, such as blood sacrifices, torture, terrible pleasures and for food, like cattle. Those condemned to hard labor and frequent beatings consider themselves lucky.
Veiled rape reference, ahoy. They also have a weakness for alcohol, and can be bribed or tricked with it. So, you know. They’re mostly just orcs with random rolls for features. A lot of the nuanced modern notions of oni in real-life mythology, with them being protectors or at least more neutral beings, is missing. Oh, and they’re only about 4 to 6 feet tall.
”I wish I could wear a hat…”
Numbers-wise, they’re pretty tough but nowhere near gargoyle territory, and are dumb and ugly but are strong, agile, and tough. They regenerate slowly and can do decent damage in hand-to-hand, and get a random selection of spells they can cast, leaning generally towards curse-type magic but not really having any consistent theme. Of course, since they come in average groups of 20+, any fight with PCs is going to be a damned slog, given they don’t do a ton of damage to seal the deal but have a lot of spells like blind or luck curse. Add in the fact that in addition to the normal attribute random rolls Rifts expects the average GM to make for every random thug, there are nine additional random tables for traits, so that’s like 180+ rolls to throw for the average group. Practical! So let’s roll three up at random to see what we get.
- Rokkunro-ru: Human torso and head but noseless, large round eyes, a wide lipless mouth with sharp teeth, muscular arms with three-fingered clawed hands, skinny skeletal legs, a pot belly, and reddish-brown skin.
- Jazu: Broad, muscular torso, “neanderthal-like” head with just two slits for a nose, small eyes that are an “unnatural” yellow, a wide lipless mouth with sharp teeth, thin and gnarled arms with skeletal hands, muscular / squat legs, a rat’s tail, with brown skin.
- Buru-su: Broad, muscular torso with a hunchback, a fox-like head with a fox-like snout, large round blue “crystal ball” style eyes, but a human mouth with crooked teeth, tentacle arms, a snail-like “trunk” that it slimes around on, and light red skin.
”It’s only pareidolia that makes you think I have a skull on my chest.”
This is the rare 1 in 10 oni that is smarter and tougher than its fellows, though no more charming or pretty. They’re more daring and brave in their murderous way, and get a much wider variety of spells the can cast. You’re not allowed to play one, even though they aren’t that strong compared to the supernatural R.C.C.s already out there. They roll on the same tables, but are slightly taller at 5-6’ feet tall.
”Not a spell, guys! Hands on fire!”
And these are the 1 in 50 rare-er oni that have three eyes and much greater intelligence, are much tougher, get psionic powers, a much wider array of spells, and martial arts powers and martial arts as if that wasn’t enough powers to keep track of. They’re even taller at 6-8 feet tall, meaning oni essentially go by Irken ranking standards, and they get the most actual skills. They’re supposed to be the scheming boss-types, and as such, are pulled away from potential PC status.
No idea where the “Sura-” comes from in this version. The big difference between this and their mythical kin is that these kappa usually live in the sea for some reason, whereas the traditional kappa is explicitly a river monster. They maintain the myth of having a bowl of water on their head that needs to remain filled for them to have strength while on land, becoming weak S.D.C. creatures if it’s emptied. Conversely to the oni, the kappa are presented as more neutral than malicious, sometimes helping people or sometimes siding with evil.
Stat-wise they’re weak M.D.C. creatures with aquatic capabilities, and are average or garbage in most stats, with endurance and strength being their highest traits. They get ocean magic, which you better have a copy of Rifts World Book 7: Underseas to understand, and crap for skills. It doesn’t bother to say whether or not you can play one - I don’t honestly see why not other than the fact they’re kinda crap. But it doesn’t say either way.
This is copy-pasted from the Rifts Conversion Book with a few extra sentences on how they sometimes serve oni and other supernatural evils. I’m not sure what goblins add to the mix, given most aren’t going to threaten PCs on their own and it’s not like the oni are going to bother sharing the best mega-damage loot with them.
”I’m terrifying, I know.”
So, these are spiders with goblin heads that are racially sadistic.
Rifts World Book 8: Japan posted:
The hideous spider-things actually get a perverse pleasure in torturing and killing other beings. A pleasure akin to the warm buzz a junkie gets when he's high — an intoxicating and palpable delight.
You can just use the word “fetish” at that point, Siembieda. Anyway they took over their homeworld and enslaved the people there as torture stock until a group of True Atlanteans, along with some godly allies, murdered most of them and banished the rest. The banished ones wandered the multiverse and assisted the Sunaj (the evil True Atlanteans) in murdering some True Atlanteans as revenge. They followed the Sunaj to Earth, but instead of being with the Sunaj in Atlantis, they’re over in China and Japan because they like it there more. Why do they like it?
So, they’re supposed to be sneaky infiltrators and masterminds, and can transform to look like a goblin, hobgoblin, imp, or oni. They also like to put on ninja garb as a hobgoblin and try to fake being a human ninja sometimes. They insist that there’s no relation between them and goblins and that the resemblance is coincidental. It’s a bit odd, then, that the only name they seem to go by is “goblin spiders”. Is that why the goblins are around? So the spiders have somebody to disguise themselves as? If so, that’s awfully roundabout.
Stat-wise they’re actually M.D.C. tanks, and have all-around great stats (except for beauty). They have venom that’ll insta-kill normal humans and might do a lot of damage even to mega-damage beings (it’s not stated that the damage interval is, though). Biting them or drinking their blood will have the same effect. They have webbing, mental psionics, and high-level spell magic or temporal magic. They’re pretty strong and explicitly NPCs, though their one-note characterization keeps them fairly ho-hum.
A pinup piece (for oni).
I can’t tell you how bored I am to write up another “here’s a sadistic monster that works as a lackey for bigger monsters because this one is tiny!” Well, these are 3’ tall creatures that otherwise look like classical oni, and are low-level M.D.C. creatures with above-average prowess and endurance, but low beauty. They’re weak against silver and can’t swim, but get some martial arts “arts of invisibility”. They have a bunch of sneaky skills but no particular psionic or magical powers.
Siembieda seems to think every major evil supernatural force needs mini-mes so I guess they can spy on the PCs at every moment but it’s already a bit cliched.
She cleans up real nice, though?
Named after the Noh mask worn to represent a “demonic” woman (sometimes literally, sometimes figuratively), this demon seems to be modeled after a few stories about a demon who takes on the form of a beautiful woman and preys on travelers, but actually looks like a demonic han. Of course, because Rifts, she just wants to eat people for their P.P.E. So there’s that.
Rifts World Book 8: Japan posted:
The malignant demon also preys on priests and monks, pretending to be a grieving widow or victim of molestation.
While not particularly bright, she’s strong-willed, super-strong and fast, and beautiful / ugly depending on her form. She’s relatively durable, can fly and turn invisible, and can regenerate limbs but has to stick them back on, and freaks out if their limbs are stolen. (Some of you might be able to guess the Japanese myth already based on that.) It gets a handful of spells and that’s that. Also, it lives ten millennia, in case your campaign covers ten millennia.
Yes, even though we already had an asian-style dragons with the “serpent of the wind” in Conversion Book, and the chiang-ku in England, why not add some more? Why not go mad?
Sinister asian dragon, sinister asian mustache.
Rifts World Book 8: Japan posted:
The words shikome kido mean "hideous sorcery" and mi "serpent,”...
I can’t find any source for the former, all I can find is shikome as “homely woman” and kido as “wicker gate”. Mi does mean “serpent” but specifically as in “astrological sign of the serpent” not as a general term for serpents. Sooo… this is… an evil creature… that likes to torment and manipulate…
… eh, what? Oh, there’s more. They can’t use martial arts powers but can teach them to people, and some people think ninja learned their tricks from a shikome kido-mi. They don’t generally work with other evil creatures as equals because they’ve got ego drama going down. Similarly, demon quellers have put these dragons on their “okay to kill” list.
Unlike other dragons, they don’t have a breath weapon, and they can’t even fly, but the get the usual invisibility, teleportation, and regeneration. They can adjust their size, but don’t get shapeshifting. Instead, they’re high-end spellcasters with an emphasis on dimensional travel and minor psionics. Some get temporal magic (it seems to be going around), and a tiny 1% get access to tattoo magic, and about half can make certain magic weapons (mainly just to bribe other people with). Similarly, they can teach any martial arts power, even though tye can’t use them. They’re playable as dragon hatchlings, but this still has the same issue as Conversion Book where it doesn’t give proper hatchling stats, so technically hatchlings get all the same stats as adults, including things like 500 P.P.E. Powergamer alert: there’s nothing saying hatchlings can’t teach their fellow party members every martial art power in the book, so be sure to kit out your buddies with magic and kung fu for free!
Rifts - the RPG that did not think this through. Again.
Their dragons are different!
Rifts World Book 8: Japan posted:
Kumo-Mi means "cloud serpent" or "cloud dragon."
That’s… close! There’s the issues with “mi”, as mentioned before, but kumo at least can mean cloud. Or spider. It can also mean “spider sign of the serpent”. Nitpicks aside, this is probably the closest to the typical asian dragon archetype, moreso than the conniving serpent of the wind. They’re pretty flexible and can be allies or baddies, and examples are given of each.
They have the usual invisibility and teleportation, but not shapechanging. They can also fly through the air and get spell magic with air / illusion / dimension themes, or alternately get air warlock spells from the Conversion Book, along with the usual smattering of psionics. They also get one art of invisibility power and one zenjoriki power: I suggest getting the one where you hide behind somebody’s back for maximum comedy. They also get all technical skills with a bonus, and are supposed to be scholars, giving PCs an excuse to seek them out for lore. Once again, you can play them as hatchlings, but no proper hatchling stats are given, so you get things like starting hatchlings getting all air warlock spells from every level. I don’t believe this issue is ever fixed for these particular dragons, either.
When a unicorn really loves a dragon...
Rifts World Book 8: Japan posted:
The name asama-tatsu translates into "volcano dragon."
Well, actually asama refers to one specific volcano. Tatsu, once again, refers to the astrological sign of the dragon. And sometimes Mt. Asama is associated with the idea of a sleeping dragon, so I can see how they somehow ended up with what they have here, but it’s still a misunderstanding of the language.
So, this is a golden dragon unicorn immune to fires that sometimes lives in volcanoes because, fuck, who’s going to evict you? Rifts doesn’t have lava men… yet, anyway. They can be good or bad (but not neutral, if you’ll recall), but often hang out with mountain monks to teach them a thing or two. They can turn invisible, regenerate, or teleport, and can adjust their size. However, they don’t have shapeshifting and get a vulnerability to cold attacks. Most get ley line walker magic, while a few are diabolists (magic circles and wards) or techno-wizards, and a rare few NPC-only dragons are “alchemists” (not an actual casting class) that get the nebulous ability to make magic weapons (except for rune weapons). They get zenjoriki martial arts powers as well as some middling psionics, and are accomplished scholars much like the kumo-mi. I don’t know how they learn much, though, hanging around with molten rock and a few monks.
Next: We bow out the way we came in.
“This meant I could throw in everything and the kitchen borg!”Original SA post
Rifts World Book 8: Japan Part 21: “This meant I could throw in everything and the kitchen borg!”
And finally, this book gets wrapped up with the experience point tables, which include experience point tables for classes banned to players like the goblin spider, oni master, or oni mystic. Does Siembieda expect GMs to actually track NPC experience? It’s not clear.
I had something harsher written to wrap this up, but it doesn’t feel appropriate to me at this moment given the recent events surrounding Palladium Books.
Ultimately, what I’ll note about a book like Rifts World Book 8: Japan is just its faceless quality. What I mean by that is: I’ve read through an entire book detailing Japan and, yet, I haven’t seen a single Japanese character. I’m not talking about a lack of statblocks, but a lack of even any names dropped in passing. Major nations or corporations aren’t even given a name for their leaders. There’s no Tarn or Prosek. Often when Palladium portrays foreign cultures, like with Rifts World Book 4: Africa, they remain faceless generalities and never individuals. And so, all you’re left with are the broad stereotypes. And that’s what pretty much sticks with me about Rifts World Book 8: Japan over the cyber-ninjas and robo-dragons - how it simply forgets to give the whole nation any real character.
And that’s all Rifts has to say about Japan. The tentatively named Gods & Oni of Rifts Japan that was supposed to give us more on Shinto and mythical creatures of Japan mentioned in the foreword has never emerged, and in case you might think I’m picking on the book overtly, it says:
Rifts World Book 8 Japan posted:
It will be available in early 1996.
Well, over two decades later and no sign of it. That’s our Palladium Books!
I’ll take a bit of time off, and then I’ll be back on a more positive note with...
Next: Aliens vs. Incas.