Review of Rifts World Book 1: Vampire Kingdoms New Revised Edition

Review Summary
Comped Capsule Review
Written Review

July 13, 2012

by: Lev Lafayette

Style: 3 (Average)
Substance: 3 (Average)

Half the book is an excellent source book for all the vampiric powers of literature and legend. The other half, for setting material, is downright dull.

Lev Lafayette has written 129 reviews (including 4 Rifts reviews), with average style of 3.19 and average substance of 3.18. The reviewer's previous review was of Rifts Dimension Book 14: Thundercloud Galaxy.

This review has been read 2653 times.

Product Summary
Name: Rifts World Book 1: Vampire Kingdoms New Revised Edition
Publisher: Palladium Books
Line: Rifts
Author: Kevin Siembieda
Category: RPG

Year: 2011

SKU: 802-E

Review of Rifts World Book 1: Vampire Kingdoms New Revised Edition

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The Vampire Kingdoms, representing the regions of the former Mexico and central America, is the first World Book for Rifts, and is now available in a new revised edition, a fairly impressive 224p tome, seemingly well-glued in its binding, and pretty well packed full of information from a first glance. There's a pretty comprehensive two-page table of contents, but no index. The book is a consistent two-column justified serif text of a smaller font, and quite minimal white-space, even between chapters. Whilst well-written the text can be very verbose as it includes a great deal of excerpt-style material written in the first person. Also, the organisation of the text is not always the best with the chapter order in particular being a little haphazard. For example, the "Vampires" chapter comes after the "Vampire Powers" chapter, and "Supplemental Game Notes" is squished between "Combat Notes" and "Weapons for Fighting Vampires", with the requirements for blood included in the midst of all this. I am going to make no attempt here to try to explain this supplement in the order it is actually presented, rather I'm going to try to elaborate what is within in an order that I think makes sense.

With the Rifts milleiu, the ultimate Vampire is the Vampire Intelligence, an elemental demon which bonds with a human(oid). Like a giant pyramid scheme, such an intelligence expands into a collection of master vampires, who in turn create secondary vampires, who in turn can create even more of their ilk or, due to the multiple degrees of dilation of the vampire intelligence essence, end up with wild vampires. Vampires are described as having a pathological hunger for human(oid) blood, and are required to at least drink a a litre every few days - if they do not receive this they go quite insane, and, given the chance, quite psychotic. Nevertheless, in addition to supremely, arrogant, evil and contemptuous typical vampire there is also the angst ridden type (the Deluded Vampire OCC) which struggles to retain a vestige of humanity, and the self-hating Heroic Vampire OCC who is dedicated to destroying his own species. Occupational character classes are also given for two types of Vampire hunter which really have minimal differences.

True the Rifts style of turning everything up to eleven, all those powers that Vampires have from mythology are included simultaneously. Yeah, the Rifts vampires have the lot. They can turn in to bats, wolves, and mist. They can summon wolves, fog, rats, bats, and insects. They have mind control, seduction, and a telepathic link with minions. They do not bleed, the do not breathe, they do not eat, or radiate heat, or have a reflection. They have supernatural strength, inhuman climbing and leaping abilities, and multiple attacks per round. Their bite does mega damage; seriously, they just chew their way through anyone in power armour. They're impervious to stun or knockout from hand-to-hand combat, or damage from falls or even a punch from mecha regardless of the damage (but it might knock them over). They're immune to normal fire. Even when killed, they'll regenerate unless utterly destroyed by sunlight. All this and more.

This said, Vampires are not impossible to disable or destroy. They can be destroyed by cutting of their head and burning it separate from the body. If they are exposed to sunlight, or submerged under running water they die. Vampires will recoil from garlic or wolfbay, or a holy symbol of a "God of Light" (crosses seem to work better). Mega-damage magical energy and a few other select spells will work, as will a handful of psionic powers. But most beneficially, silver weapons are quite effective, and indeed, a range of sample silver-plated weapons are offered for dealing with the vampiric hordes, such as the anti-vampire railgun with silver bullets. Vampires must have the soil of their homeland, which makes travelling a bit of a pain for them (they can cross running water, but only in a comatose state). As mentioned they really don't like sunlight or running water, and they especially don't like holy water. You may wish to get yourself some Power Armour with a Water Cannon attached, yea seriously, these exist.

Now all of this craziness is Rifts at its very best, and I was thoroughly enjoying this book. Then it came to a screaming halt, just when I was hoping that there would be some substantial flesh to the bones, so to speak. I refer to the half of the book that is dedicated to the the cities and life, such as it is, in the Vampire Kingdoms themselves. To be honest, this half of the book is frightfully dull. We're given cities and towns, where plenty of discussion is spent on local (non-vampiric) gangs, various (non-vampiric) NPCs, and other items of colour and movement (e.g., gladitorial combat arenas, slave markets), pages and pages of shops, with only minimal discussion on the vampires of the region themselves. One of the more difficult issues, the demographics of an ever-expanding wild vampire population in rural regions, isn't addressed at all. Instead, we're given several pages of monsters of Mexico, before moving into the Vampire Heartland of old Mexico City, a thoroughly unintesting survey.

As you can tell, this product is really a mixed bag. It starts really well, with a description of the powers etc, and then collapses into a boring heap when the kingdoms themselves are actually described. Which is a real disappointment, because this was the opportunity to see how the interesting system material and descriptions previously provided would be incorporated. There was an expectation of how vampire rulers excerised restraint over the local blood-drinking populations to ensure that the supply of humans wasn't exhausted, or how competing arrogant master vampires would deal with each other in the same region. There was even hope - in this dense 224p book - that there might even be a sketch of a scenario or two. Alas, no such luck. What could have been an excellent product only makes it half-way.

Style: 1 + .4 (layout) + .6 (art) + .6 (coolness) + .6 (readability) + .6 (product) = 3.8

Substance: 1 + .4 (content) + .4 (text) + .6 (fun) + .6 (workmanship) + .5 (system) = 3.5

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