Kevin Siembieda, Palladium Books and Friends
RIFTS BESTIARY volume one
This Bestiary is a massive, highly impressive, 256 pages, 15mm depth, of quality paper sandwiched between 2 glossy covers. The front cover carries the artwork of Charles 'Chuck' Walton Jnr & Eduardo Dominguez S and features a chimera type creature known as a Corrival Battler. The scene is respective of the dynamically powerful illustrations which RIFTS is renown for. Inside, on the black, white and greyscale pages, the pencilled copy can be found on page #106. The coloured version, one would expect is of the original painting, though there are now available several computer programs that can be used to colourise pencilled or inked drawings so I cannot be 100% sure - not that it matters in any way.
Erin Tarn [biographer and people's hero]
The opening chapter is 'written' by Erin Tarn and sets the current scene in today's RIFTS EARTH. Most RIFTS players will already be up to speed on how the World has been and is being invaded through portals from other worlds and universes. In RIFTS the game concentrates mostly on the North American Continent, though of course there are Rifts open and invading aliens to be found all over the World we know as 'Earth'. There are dozens of books published covering the invasion, the invaders and their worlds, but the highest concentration of splits in the atmosphere can be found all across the USA. (even Presidential 'walls' haven't kept them out) You can find out about the Rifts Earth Timeline here.
So with dozens, dozens and dozens of RIFTS game books available, and thousands of role-play gamers who not only play Rifts but collect every book published, it made total sense to look back through the pages, and via the vision and fertile imaginations of Kevin Siembieda and others, reproduce and revise the hundreds of monsters and creatures in not one, but several, specific volumes. In case you think I have a man-on-the-inside of Palladium Books who is leaking me information, the clue about 'several volumes' is in the sub-title of this manual 'Volume One'. RIFTS monsters are as diverse and often more intensely frightening than those found in Cthulhu® which is renown for its fear-driving creatures. They are the stuff of nightmares and yet all have a practicality for their own survival. Most species look hideous, monstrosities derived from a millenia of combining inter-galactic races
In case anyone thinks that Palladium have just reprinted the old pages and brought them together between two new covers I should point out that the reason this volume has taken so long to reach the public is that every creature has been meticulously updated and rewritten, not quite fully but certainly enough to offer better perspectives for the GM especially. All creatures have been revised some way, some more than others, with new information and details; for instance the Darkhound, Ghost Allosaurus, and others are now more developed and explained and categorised, plus there are nearly 20 totally new creatures - I'll leave you, the GM, to enjoy finding them and then have fun introducing them to your players. What a delight it is when player characters run into something they have never met before but neither have the player character's players.
RIFTS BESTIARY Volume One is a glossary of animals from A to F [Aegis Buffalo to Fury Beetle].
It is possibly a certainty (a possible certainty?) that RIFT players will already have almost every animal/creature/monster to be featured in this and the forth-coming series of volumes, with the exception of the new additions. However, there is also new information on each and of course those animals are spread out over the previously mentioned multitude of volumes and there is the problem. It's okay if the GM is going to run a game from one or two of those earlier World books, but if they are writing a new scenario adventure and want access to all the possible encounters then a Bestiary [or set of Bestiaries] is obviously the most comfortable and sensible way to go.
Apart from the ink and pencil illustrations and the obvious accompanying text that you would expect, Alignment, Attributes, Hit Points, Weight, Potential Life-span etc there are maps of North America with all States marked by shape and Initial/s. The maps also includes Greenland. I know Denmark aren't pleased at about the request to purchase Greenland but if all of these animals/creatures can be found living there then I would say to Denmark "let it go". These maps show the probable places the creatures can be/should be found. However it is always a good idea for an enterprising GM to have allowed wandering invading creatures to be found and/or located well away from their expected habitat; the maps are guides to where they first appeared not rigid rulings to where they are now.
My guess is the next volumes will be G through to M, N through to T and then U through to Z (though we will have to await the announcement of each volume as it arrives), thus I am figuring there will be 4 volumes in the set over the next two years which will give us just over 1000 pages with hundreds of animals listed. Volume One, A-F has 67 creature types, many of which have a multitude of tributary sub-types, probably reaching over 100 in total. If I have guessed right about there being four volumes to fulfill the set of Bestiaries and they are all about the same then the GM is looking at a bank of around/over 400 monsters; a Monstrous Manual to rival anything Dungeons & Dragons™ or Pathfinder™ have attempted. The RIFTS BESTIARY 'Gold' edition is the same as the regular soft-cover volume except it has a few signatures from the main staff who worked on it. The regular soft-cover volume has a rrp of $26.99.
The Gold Hard-Cover Edition sells at $55.00. Its black & gold front cover features the Dimetrodon Dinosaur from page #175
RIFTS BESTIARY is not a game book to read through, it is the beginning of a huge reference library. The question that will be asked is "Do Rifts players need this?" and the answer I reply as a GM, rather than as a player - I never understood why players who do not GM require access to game reference volumes - is "yes". Yes you do need it, even if you already have much of the information within it the world evolves and so do the invaders and therefore this and the following volumes are bringing your game up to date with one of the most useful (if not 'the' most useful) GM's aid for RIFTS rpg, plus (I'll make an assumption here) as Volume One introduces new creatures I would expect following volumes to echo this and so not only new information on old enemies but also information on new enemies. I hope Erin Tarn's trusty pencil is ready to start again.
For part of this review I could continue by listing the animals, offering up some of their stats etc to puff out the text, but as Palladium have assured me that all animals/creatures/monsters have been revised, I can safely say that this series of Bestiaries is a great way for the authors to address many player concerns and questions [Palladium are very much a company that listen to their fans] about certain encounters, and Palladium have ensured that these creatures will live on forever (or until your player's characters kill them) in your adventures.
If you like trawling through all the books you already have to find the right creatures for each adventure you write, then pass this by when you see it on the game shop shelf. However, remember that if you do, your players will be missing out on new surprises, meeting different RIFT creatures, and the chance to learn more about these 'aliens' who are literally taking the world by storm.
RIFTS BESTIARY game books are the way to keep your players on edge whilst ensuring the longevity of your older books condition. At $27.00 (probably about the same in UK pounds due to money-change rates and import duty etc) this is a good, actually very good, investment for the future of your RIFTS adventures and campaigns with you as GM at the helm. Just keep it away from your players!
Remember to keep up to date with everything RIFTS/Palladium by subscribing to The RIFTER magazine. This is Palladiums version of Games Workshop's 'White Dwarf' - an inhouse publication that features information and more on the Palladium megaverse. Scenarios, stories new encounters, new ideas, occasional meanderings from Erin Tarn, words of wisdom throughout. These magazines are the link between the World Books and often features articles and items that didn't make it into a final printing (due to space constriction, not quality).