Dimension Book 5: Anvil Galaxy
Dimension Book 5: Anvil Galaxy Capsule Review by Craig C. Robertson on 14/07/02
Style: 5 (Excellent!)
Substance: 4 (Meaty)
This is definitely NOT your father's Rifts supplement.
Product: Dimension Book 5: Anvil Galaxy
Author: Bill Coffin
Company/Publisher: Palladium Books
Line: Rifts/Phase World
Page count: 160
Year published: 2002
Comp copy?: yes
Capsule Review by Craig C. Robertson on 14/07/02
Genre tags: Science Fiction Far Future Space
I would like you to close your eyes and imagine with me. What? You can't close your eyes and read this review at the same time? Okay, just pretend that you are closing your eyes and imagining with me. Are we ready now? Good. Let's begin...
Imagine a world in which a certain game publisher builds a certain reputation. A reputation for dense, stat-intensive supplements. A reputation for super-powered NPCs which are nearly impossible to implement in a normal campaign. A reputation for almost godlike PCs and ungodly tech which unbalances the minds of Game Masters, much less their campaigns.
Now imagine that game company releasing a supplement which is actually fun to read. A supplement that contains almost no tech whatsoever. A supplement in which uber-NPCs are conspicuous in their absence. Pretty mind-blowing, huh?
Now, stop imagining. That world is our own, and that game company is Palladium Books. Rifts Dimension Book 5: The Anvil Galaxy is totally unlike any other Palladium book I have ever seen. Bill Coffin ditched the tech, the stats, the ridiculous NPCs, and created a book the Rifts GMs can actually use to design roleplaying adventures.
The Anvil Galaxy is one of the Three Galaxies featured in Dimension Book 2: Phase World, by C.J. Carella. The original book was intended to introduce a space opera campaign setting for Rifts campaigns. As such, it did a fairly good job of using current Rifts elements such as Naruni Enterprises and the Spluggorth to maintain a consistent feel with the rest of Rifts. The O.C.C.s were well presented, as were a number of factions unique to the Three Galaxies. There were also enough mega-damage weapons, 'bots, and tech to choke a powergamer, particularly if you included the subsequent Phase World Sourcebook.
Bill Coffin has turned up the heat on the Phase World setting. The search for the Cosmic Forge has begun, and every faction in the Anvil Galaxy is lining up for a piece of the action. The book begins with the mythology of the Cosmic Forge, offering nine different theories (Heresies in the book) on the location and nature of the Forge. After that comes a brief section of the overall nature of the Three Galaxies.
At this point, Coffin begins to scare me. This book is actually well organized. Most of the game stats in the book are in two different sections. The first is the R.C.C. section, featuring about 20 different R.C.C.s, organized by their political affiliation. Oddly enough, only half of them are mega-damage creatures. Some of the races are woefully cliche (Space Minotaurs? Puh-Leeze!); but others, such as the magically under-achieving Ultrovians, promise some fun roleplaying challenges.
The second section of rules, a random planet generator, is in the back of the book. A simple series of percentile charts leads you through system creation. Every result is clearly explained, a vast improvement over the venerable Traveller system, which required a degree in Astronomy to be very useful. This section may very well be worth the price of the book for every GM planning on running space opera campaigns (That's right, Trekkers, I'm talkin' to you.).
After the R.C.C. section comes the heart of the book: the faction and empire descriptions. Some of the names are familiar, but the material is largely expanded since the original Phase World book. The Consortium of Civilized Worlds, the United Worlds of Warlock, Naruni Enterprises, and the Trans-Galactic Empire are dealt with in depth, as are several new groups such as Gene-Tech, the Hartigal Combine, and the Golgan Republik.
Each faction contains the usual descriptions of governmental institutions, military strength, daily life, social structure, crime, and so forth. In keeping with ancient Palladium tradition, some of the text is copied directly from the first Phase World book. However, Coffin takes the original information and livens it up quite a bit. I have not laughed so hard at a "serious" rpg supplement since Rache Bartmoss guided me throught the CP 2020 'net. His description of Naruni Enterprises was gifted.
However, along with the entertainment value, he delivers some hefty material. Each faction also includes a list of that faction's relations with each other faction. Read these carefully, since not all relationships are reciprocal. Also, each faction has descriptions of between five to ten different planets. Each planet is an adventure hook in itself. Combined with the various intrigues between factions, the book easily contains a hundred or more viable plot hooks. Can't come up with any ideas for tonight's game? Turn to almost any page, and you are well on your way.
Finally, the book concludes with a section on the Core region of the Anvil Galaxy. This section is rather sketchy, with brief descriptions of a couple of noncarbon-based lifeforms and a groups of fallen Cosmo-Knights. I think Coffin added this section to create some anticipation for future Phase World supplements. The information isn't bad, but it isn't enough to anchor a campaign.
Overall, this is the best thing I have ever seen come out of Palladium Books. There are tons of adventure hooks. Some of the factions have even inspired additions to my "Big List of Campaigns that I Desperately Want to Run Someday." Unfortunately, Bill Coffin no longer works for Palladium. I just hope that their remaining writers use this book as their inspiration for future works.