Sunday, May 17, 2009

[Rifts:2112] Europe

Okay, here we go with my long-delayed post on Europe.

I've been giving this a lot of thought, actually, because Eurpope is probably the one area of my take on the worlds of Rifts that will see the most changes setting-wise. In short, I think the ball was really dropped with the "Old World" setting books--England, Africa, Triax & the NGR. The latter book, in particular, was a huge disappointment for me when it came out, and largely marked the end of my fanboyish purchase of whatever Rifts book came out, sight unseen.

My problems with Triax & the NGR, in setting terms, were severalfold. I'll address them here briefly if only to give some context to the changes I've made with my own version of the world. 

One of the problems I had with the concept of Triax, as first introduced back in Sourcebook One, was of it being this international arms dealer. That just made zero sense to me; here we have a post-apocalyptic world inundated by monsters, magic, interdimensional storms, and alien technology, and a country, the New German Republic, literally besieged on nearly all sides by hostile enemies. Yet somehow, with these sub-stratospheric planes, they have the resources and means to transport weapons and giant robots to markets overseas. It's not a concept I'd be likely to keep if I was running Rifts RAW, and it's definitely out the window with my more explicitly post-apocalyptic take on the setting. I do, however, like the idea of itinerant weapons dealers, so I'm going to keep the "Triax" brand name, but meld it with Naruni Enterprises. In effect, Triax is the brand name Naruni sells their weapons under, like how Nissan used to sell their cars as Datsuns in the states. The Triax-brand goods in Sourcebook One will be manufactured by the Naruni and the Naruni-brand goods in Mercenaries will be sold under the Triax brand.

The second problem I had with Triax and with the NGR in general is that it seemed like basically a clone of the Coalition: a techno-centric bastion of humanity, fighting the good fight against inimically monstrous forces. Even worse, the NGR lacked the Coalition's delicious little moral conundrum of "what price humanity?" In effect, it was sort of like a Munchkin's Coalition--all of the cool stuff with none of the moral angst.

The third problem I had with the books was the lack of proper European flavo(u)r in the books. Some of the other worldbooks managed to capture the flavor of their respective regions, if perhaps a bit cartoonily at times (::cough::New West::cough::). But from the cover of Triax featuring a robot with "NGR" (as opposed to "NDR"--how "New German Republic" would be rendered in German) stenciled on its front, there's a definite lack of Eurocentrism. Again, we're back to the "Coalition Lite" syndrome. My goal is to have my Rifts:2112 Europe to drip with its own distinctive flavor.

I'm certainly not knocking the "cool stuff" factor of the NGR sourcebook, and I intend to keep most if not all of it. I'm just shifting it over to Japan, which, let's face it, should be the home of giant robots and tons of cool mechs.

So where does that leave the New German Republic, and the rest of Europe for that matter? Let's take a look at the map I worked up in the same style as my North America map.

As you can see, I've kept political boundaries largely the same as in the world as-written. Coastlines are, of course, different due to my increased level of sea-level rise. The British Isles are moreso islands than ever, including the risen land of Lyonesse. The most changes I made, politically, are in the lands outside the core NGR/Gargoyle/Brodkil regions. But let's go through the various place names before getting into specificities.

Avalon is what I'm taking from Rifts England--the conceit of a returned Arthurian kingdom. However, I'm also taking advantage of the fact that Mutants in Avalon is available in PDF (finally!) and running with that. So my Camelot Reborn is populated with mutant animals; I've always liked the imagery of medieval animals. It's a call-back to actual manuscript illuminations, and recalls modern works such as Redwall and Mouse Guard, of which I'm an enthusiastic, if casual, fan.

Lyonesse is the center of the returned Fae realms (as opposed to Scotland, as in Rifts England).

Ys is actually Brittany, turned into an island by the rising waters. I'm envisioning that as a sort of half-Fae, half-human land, menaced by the necromantic Blood Druids of the mainlands, almost a faerie tale kingdom. Great setting for a bog-standard fantasy campaign.

The rest of the British Archipelago I'm envisioning a sort of Sea Gypsy setting, mainly inspired by one of the pictures from my initial idea post. I love the double-decker bus being used as an ad-hoc tram/gondola. I'm picturing the survivors fleeing to the sea to get the hell away from lands now swarming with mutant knights and malicious fae, living off the ocean using water power and steam (more on steam tech shortly).

A good homeland for itinerant adventurers, perhaps.

I've mentioned the Blood Druids, and I'll talk more about them in my post on Magic. Suffice for now to say that they're necromancers and summoners and tend to give magic a bad name inside of the NGR, much like the Federation of Magic does for the Coalition.

Vasconia, Langedoc, and Burgundy are independant feudal kingdoms, slightly more advanced and structured than the Sea Gypsies and residents of Ys, but not quite as much as the NGR. Vasconia is the Basque nation, happily independent and insular. The other two are polyglot gatherings pulled together by survival.

Italy is home to a series of Dwarven Citadels built atop the peninsula's many hilltops, in the manner of old Renaissance city-states. Aside from the areas around Tolkeen in North America, I want Europe to be the center of traditional fantasy-type races. I like dwarves, so they're getting lots of space. It's not marked on the map, but I'm also envisioning a smattering of citadels and strongholds in Norway and elsewhere; I'm picturing Bergen as a sort of dwarf-human trading post.

I'm picturing for the Ogre Kingdoms of Bulgaria a more-or-less straight lift of the Ogre Kingdoms from the Warhammer Fantasy world, one of the relatively recent Game Workshop ideas I really dig, particularly the Leadbelchers. Fits in really well with my sort of steampunk-fantasy vibe I'm feeling for Europe.

If I recall, Vampire kingdoms in Romania are canonical, and I'll happily port that over no questions asked. And the same goes for the Russian Warlords, one of the Rifts worldbooks that I feel got things right on take one for the most part.

Now to the bigger polities.

The "monster empires" are largely unchanged, particularly the Brodkil Empire. For BRP purposes, I'll be using Orcs for Brodkil stats. I really have no problems or issues with the Brodkil as a species, society, or bad-guy empire. Nor do I have a problem with the Gargoyle Empire, although, in keeping with my amping up of Lovecraftian elements, I'm thinking that "Gargoyles" will be more of a term applied by human enemies to describe something wholly alien...

I'll use Star-spawn in various sizes to represnt the different types of Gargoyle described in Triax. I will, however, be dropping most of the "gear" that the Gargoyles use. The Brodkil are the tech-junkies. The Gargoyles should be alien and magical, perhaps occassional allies with the Blood Druids and themselves worshippers of Great Cthulhu and other Things.

And at last we come to the New German Republic.

As I wrote about in my technology post, I see the NGR being a much more steampunk or clockpunk setting as opposed to North America's more cyberpunk/dieselpunkish vibe. I'm picturing the NGR as a loose coalition of city-states and independent baronies, fortified strongpoints that support each other in holding the line against Gargoyles and Brodkil but remain extremely protective of their autonomy. In effect, I see the NGR as a return to the model of the Holy Roman Empire, which is why I've marked the major cities of the NGR as "Imperial Cities"--they are the primary electors of the NGR's legislative body, which in turn directs national defense and levies war taxes.

Germany, like the rest of Europe, was scoured by the Cataclysm, reducing most of its major cities to ruin and rubble and temporarily casting its people into nearly Neolithic living standards. Due mostly to blind luck, Germany was largely spared being overrun initially by Creatures from Beyond. Building on half-remembered scientific knowledge and ad-hoc technology salvaged from the pre-Cataclysm ruins, the people of the NGR have managed to improvise a semblance of technological sophistication, using mostly steam power and alchemy in place of electricity and nuclear power.

I'll write more about alchemy in my post on Magic, but in Europe alchemy occupies much the same status as techno-wizardry does in North America, although it's more widely accepted by the Powers That Be than T-W is. As for steam power, steam turbines are used to generate electricity, and a small network of steam locomotives connects cities across the NGR. But what we're concerned with here, I'm sure you'll agree, is steam-powered mechs!

Although I'm jettisoning most of the Triax mechs, I'm not arguing with the idea that to fight alien Gargoyles and rampaging Brodkil, some serious armor is needed. I'm picturing the biggest mechs in the NGR being equivalent to the Black Knight--modified a bit to be more steam-punky, of course.

(Thinking about weapons systems, I'm picturing an even stronger emphasis on chemical slug-throwers--using depleted-uranium rounds, as per the canonical setting--and mini-missiles than we'd see in the vanguard of North American systems. What energy weapons there are would be mostly primitive plasma guns, reverse-engineered from alien technology.)

The vast majority of power armor in the NGR is smaller in scale, effectively throwbacks to medieval armor that provide a measure of protection and strength but retain mobility and the means for the user to utilize a weapon of their choice, usually a missile launcher, rail gun, or chain gun firing D-U rounds. The suits are even called Dampfritter, or steam knights. My visual inspiration comes from the uneven yet visually stunning Steamboy anime.

I'm lifting that tank, too, and calling it the Dampfspinner, or "steam spider".

One thing I liked about the NGR cities as written is that they've been self-consciously built to emulate the classic European town architecture of old. In my version, only the city cores have that look. The outlying areas and the lower levels of the high-rise, high population districts are much more crowded and dirty (see the pic with the locomotive above or the City of Lost Children stills in my Technology post).

I'll do some more thinking on the political and social makeup of the NGR, so there might be a further post on that subject in the future.

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