Rifts: Aftermath; Shadowrun: Threats 2
Rifts: Aftermath; Shadowrun: Threats 2 Capsule Review by Justin Mohareb on 29/06/02
Style: 3 (Average)
Substance: 4 (Meaty)
What happens when you take a big world and ask "what's occured since the last update supplement?" These books, that's what happens.
Product: Rifts: Aftermath; Shadowrun: Threats 2
Author: Kevin Siembieda; Develped by Rob Boyle & Mike Mulvihill
Company/Publisher: Palladium Books; FanPro
Line: Rifts; Shadowrun
Comp copy?: yes
Capsule Review by Justin Mohareb on 29/06/02
Genre tags: Fantasy Science Fiction Horror Espionage Conspiracy Post-apocalyse Asian/Far East
By Kevin Siembieda
Shadowrun : Threats 2
Metaplot can be an ugly, ugly thing. Not so much the base concept itself (evolving backstory in an RPG is always good), but the application can be less than thrilling.
Some players hate metaplots. They're in arms against the thought of someone else having the right to dictate what happens in their games. Others enjoy the feel of playing in an organic world, where things happen all around with or without their direct input.
There are pros and cons on both sides of the debate, but there's no place for discussing that in a review.
Rifts: Aftermath and Threats 2 are both Metaplot books, taking two background heavy worlds and expanding on the results of recent events in the settings.
Rifts: Aftermath is... Well, the title is pretty much self-explanatory. It describes the aftermath of the genocidal War on Tolkeen by the Coalition states. Let me tell you, you don't realize just how much is going on in a setting until 208 pages of "the story since two years ago" lands in your lap.
R:A goes in detail about what's been happening across the world, although somewhat uneven detail. It also assumes you have access to the complete library of the RIFTS material (which isn't that foolish an assumption).
The book details the state of the world following the siege on Tolkeen, starting with a close up look at the state of the city post invasion. The activities of the CS forces and the Tolkeen resistance forces in Tolkeen are discussed, as are the efforts to get refugees out of the city to safer ground by the Juicer Liberation Army and the Cyber Knights.
The tactics of the CS army for pacifying and subjugating cities and the activities of the Tolkeen resistance/rescue forces are described . The 'likelihood of going insane while buried alive' table is also useful.
The description of North America describes how the continent's power groups have reacted to the devastation of Tolkeen, such as the dark sorcerers of The Federation of Magic and the Lovecraftian vampire intelligences of Mexico.
After that, we're treated to a "Meanwhile..." sequence that takes us to Europe, Africa, Japan, and Australia, with a short side trip to the depths of the oceans and up to the depths of space.
The book is fairly data intensive, updating us on the various power groups across the Rifts world. One problem with this is with significant shifts in the power structures. Since the groups work in fairly tight orbits, causing significant changes to one can affect other local ones. If you've had a Vampire or Xiticix invasion, or had the Gargoyle Empire or NGR have a significant victory in their ongoing conflict, information on their current situations will be less useful.
As mentioned previously, the book assumes you have the main information on the regions discussed. With the possible exception of material from Mutants in Orbit, the book is all updates and changes, and anything that strikes a casual reader's fancy will likely require a purchase to catch up on.
The material could also have used another editorial once over to tighten it up.
The material will probably be useful in helping move campaigns forward, with plots dangling from every corner.
Threats 2 is a follow-up to both the original Threats book and the recent Year of the Comet and Target: Awakened Lands books.
Like the original, it gives us a series of groups and or individuals who pose a danger to the Shadowrun world at large.
Unlike the original Threats, Threats 2 concerns itself with a mix of new threats and antagonists from previous books (such as Year of the Comet, Target: Awakened Lands, and Matrix: Brainscan).
The book includes Governor Saito, the renegade Japanese General who rules California, a secret conspiracy within the Catholic Church, and a number of groups related to Rogue AIs.
The entries are all done in typical Shadowrun style, in character. Each entry is listed as an entry from a character. The majority of them are in the hoary style of "if you're reading this, I'm dead now", first used in Universal Brotherhood, and now so conventional that it's even made fun of by one of the entries.
The entries are fairly interesting to read, and since they're all independent, you can skip ones you find uninteresting.
Threats is a lot easier for GMs to drop into a game; the modularity of the various Threats lets you pick one out and drop it into a campaign pretty much whole.
The flaw of Threats 2, compared to the original, is that so many of them are linked to previous products in some way; several of them are independent, but in the original book all of the various threats seemed independent of previous sourcebooks. They built on previous themes, but didn't require much knowledge aside from the basic background. Threats 2, while not requiring quite as intimate a knowledge of Shadowrun as the Aftermath book does of the Rifts world, still refers to certain specific items and events detailed in previous sourcebooks.
Rifts: Aftermath and Threats 2 both expand on previous events in their respective game worlds. Aftermath covers the breadth of the Rifts world in the aftermath of the Coalition States/Tolkeen war, while Threats 2 goes into specifics on new dangers in the world of Shadowrun.
Rifts GMs will be happy with the influx of new information in Aftermath, while Shadowrun GMs will like the variety of new and improved nemeses available in Threats. The two of them are chock-a-block with plot hooks and springboards for campaigns.