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Rifts World Book 1: Vampire Kingdoms (Revised Edition)
Vampire Kingdoms is a gothic horror sourcebook for Rifts published by Palladium Books and written by Kevin Siembieda.
By Aaron T. Huss

Vampire Kingdoms is the ultimate sourcebook for incorporating vampires into your Rifts game along with bringing players to Rifts-Mexico, also know as the Vampire Kingdoms. Palladium Books takes a very interest direction concerning the existence of vampires including traditional and new ideas. One can say that the material defines why vampires come into existence for the purpose of making them feel real rather than simple fantasy or horror tales. At the same time, plenty of information is provided to combat the vampires so one does not feel hopeless against these immortal foes. Do not fear, the outlook may be grim, but it is not hopeless.

In addition to the obvious purpose of incorporating the Vampire Kingdoms into Rifts is the fact that all the source material can be used outside of Rifts. Not because it lacks in-game mechanics (quite the opposite actually), rather it is so detailed that you can take this material and apply it elsewhere. Palladium Books are masters at creating sourcebooks and this revision of their first Rifts World Book is amazing! Not only do the vampires within truly come to life, but their entire being is brought to the forefront and filled with depth like I’ve never imagined. When a sourcebook informs the reader that vampires maintain mortal ranches and use the humans as cattle, you know the book isn’t screwing around. This book is all about the lords of the night and doesn’t pull any punches.

ABOUT VAMPIRES

Vampires within Vampire Kingdoms are not the traditional ones from centuries of folklore. To start, vampires are described as a plague that spreads throughout the land like a disease, albeit one that is demonic in nature. The undead are made to be demons and not just supernatural. Yes they have all the typical characteristics: vulnerable to sunlight, holy water, and wooden stakes, have superhuman strength, and create new vampires by biting them, but it doesn’t stop there. The first vampire, in what is to become a large community of them, is formed by a willing subject who acquires the essence of his ultimate vampiric master (known as the Vampire Intelligence) which can be thought of as an elder god residing in a different dimension. This first vampire (known as the Master Vampire) spreads this vampiric essence like a disease throughout the land. The end result is an entire community (or rather Kingdom) of vampires who “live” like a similar human community.

The sections dedicated to describing the vampires and their kin in detail contains an introduction to what vampires truly are, a large list of the powers they posses (in game mechanics terminology), the different types of vampires, their protectors, and a bit about how they function. One thing to note is that when you create an entire kingdom of vampires, you cannot sustain life by luring the random investigator or two. These kingdoms are often backed by farms… human farms… where humans are turned into cattle and used to feed the vampires. Yep, cattle! It’s twisted, but would make sense to support an entire kingdom. But of course, no vampire kingdom would be complete without some protectors. Including the Chupacabra, are good list of protectors is included to fill-out your kingdom.

HUNTING VAMPIRES

We all know that vampires are virtually impossible to kill, with traditional means that is. When you consider the often-found load-out of a Rifts character, your players may need to completely strip their characters down and find more low-tech means for survival. Vampires are tough, but not completely unstoppable. They all have weaknesses and the first thing a player needs to learn is how to use and exploit those weaknesses. Throughout the sections for hunting vampires includes a detailed description of the various weaknesses of vampires and how to exploit them (this is translated more into combat and weapon mechanics).

A large number of pages is dedicated to describing combat with a vampire. It is critical to understand not only how to fight a vampire, but how to recognize their methods and responses. It is stated numerous times throughout the content (in a narrative format) that to survive an attack against the vampires means fully understanding what to use (weapons and combat styles) and when to use them. Moving on are the actual in-game mechanics that translate all this information into player character terms by giving the players what they need to create the basic type of vampire hunter character.

MEXICO

The Vampire Kingdoms are located in the heart of Rifts-Mexico. However, there’s more to Mexico than lands infested with the vampire plague. The content for Mexico focuses on El Paso and Ciudad Juarez. These are the border cities that offer a “last chance” spot to rest and refill before entering the true Vampire Kingdoms. Although be careful what lurks in the shadows… There are numerous ideas for adventures in either of these cities before entering the Vampire Kingdoms, something of a precursor before the real battle comes. El Paso is detailed as far as the major groups within the city and basic highlights, but not much else. Juarez, however, is very detailed including government, technology, 7 major groups, and a map with a large list of highlighted locations (each one described within). Outside of Juarez, Northern Mexico is a volatile area due to the presence of the Vampire Kingdoms. Instead of detailing further villages, Vampire Kingdoms includes a high number of tool-kits for the Game Master to create their own.

VAMPIRE KINGDOMS

Vampire Kingdoms wouldn’t be complete without a look at the actual Vampire Kingdoms. This includes a look at the bestiary found across Rifts-Mexico and the Vampire Kingdoms, information about the history surrounding the kingdoms, and of course the kingdoms themselves. Only four are detailed here, although the book states there are 6 major kingdoms. Each kingdom is fully detailed including their location(s), composition, and bits and pieces of history surrounding the kingdom. The odd thing is, this part of the book is the shortest. Is that a big deal? Not really, because it’s more important to understand the vampires themselves than to worry about the minute details of what their ranches look like. The true focus of the book is to give the players an understanding of what they’re coming across as the layout of the land probably won’t matter once you’re facing down a group of vampires. Plus Game Masters are given a full look at how these vampires are.

OVERALL

If you want your vampires to be more than the stereotype Dracula-like being who turns into a bat, sleeps in a coffin, lures victims into their home, and simply bites them in the end, then Vampire Kingdoms is for you. It not only breaths life into the ideals of vampires but it creates an entire society filled with depth and history. Entire communities can be created to house your vampire society including their human slaves and henchmen and undead guards. I highly recommend this book for anyone looking to create detailed vampire societies and consider it essential for anyone venturing into Rifts-Mexico.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 8 out of 10
Being such a detailed sourcebook can have one simple drawback: information overload. One thing that occurs throughout Vampire Kingdoms is content that gets repeated or is simply too wordy. The good news about this is that it doesn’t hinder your ability to read and comprehend the material. It’s better to think “I read that already” than “I don’t understand, something is missing.” I can honestly say that the number of times content repeats itself is completely overshadowed by the amount of valuable material. To coincide with this valuable material is an assortment of wonderful illustrations including some horrific images depicting the demons that vampires are being described as.

The overall layout and presentation and simply and easy-to-follow, although the inserted map of Juarez is less than desirable. A little more detail on that map would be nice. It is worth noting, again, that the illustrations really stand-out from everything, simply because they are not only beautiful but excellent representations of the presented material.

Mechanics: 10 out of 10
Palladium Books has this way about their source material where you’re reading along and it “pops” out at you that the content you just read has mechanics flawlessly incorporated into them. Besides that obvious mechanics of creating vampire NPCs, vampire hunter PCs, weapons, and bestiary, there are mechanics all throughout this book. Most of them are so inconspicuous that you may not realize you’re even reading them. Don’t think that this equates to glossing over the mechanics and neglecting them. Rather, you read the material and translate the mechanics in your head with ease. While you may think the material reads like a research paper, the content is constantly being translated into in-game mechanics thus giving it all purpose.

Value Add: 10 out of 10
The value in Vampire Kingdoms is everywhere. From the mechanics designed for Rifts to the fluff that can be used elsewhere, the book is filled with valuable source material. The part that stands out the most to me is how vampires are given a history that starts with a grand, supernatural being not of this world. Vampires of fiction and mythology are often filled with folklore backgrounds which rarely translate well into role-playing mechanics. Vampire Kingdoms tears down this fictional history by creating a greater being (such as an elder god) whose essence is “planted” into a willing subject, creating the vampire. Considering only this part of the book, you create vampires with a lot more depth than “his body was not properly buried and an undead being arose”.

Remembering that the source material addresses three different areas, there is additional value to the book due to its potential use for both players and Game Masters. The information about vampires is essential for players who wish to become vampire hunters while the information about Mexico and the Vampire Kingdoms is essential for Game Masters who wish to run a series of adventures within the land of the vampires. When you consider the price, this book is worth every single penny!

Overall: 9 out of 10
Vampire Kingdoms is an amazing sourcebook. If your players are ready to take on the horrors within the lands of Rifts-Mexico, they’ll need to be properly equipped. Throw out all their knowledge of combat and consider a more, low-tech approach. You could throw them in their completely blind, but that doesn’t always make for good role-playing. In addition, this material is great for other systems besides Rifts. Yes you will have to tweak some of the mechanics, but when the source material contains such simple mechanics such as “these vampires roam in packs of 2d6+6″, you can translate that into every system. To round all this off is the fact that you are given so many levels within the Vampire Kingdoms (types of vampires, pets, guardians, etc…) that creating a fully fleshed-out kingdom of your own is much easier. Essentially, this book gives you all you should need concerning vampires starting on the very first page.

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Aaron T. Huss
Aaron T. Huss is the Editor-in-Chief for Roleplayers Chronicle and President of Mystical Throne Entertainment. He is a writer, editor, and publisher and currently has a license to publish Savage Worlds and Colonial Gothic content. He also serves as the Editor-in-Chief and Project Manager for the Savage Insider magazine, supporting the Savage Worlds RPG.

1 Comment

  1. Anja says:

    I was really excited by the release of this book since I first heard that it would be published. Somewhere I still have my old copy of the original version of Vampire Kingdoms. That book was in the first years of Rifts the one of the most important books that defined (and shaped) the world of Rifts: Earth, so when a revised version was to be released, I looked forward to it.

    I can’t say that I am disappointed of the book, but then again I am not all that happy about it either. When you first look at it as a new player, you find that it is very helpful in that you learn about vampires, the darkness that exist in the world of Rifts, but as an experienced player who already have the original version of the book, I must say that there are alot of inconsistencies and strange contradicting things that just do not add up. It just feels that the author has chosen to ignore 20 years of published books (both his own creations as well as that of other writers).

    but to be really honest with this review, I will have to take the possitive and the negative things with this book and explain them to the readers, so that I just do not come out as a ”it was better before” type of player.

    The good stuff:
    * The book is 224 pages, this is really amazing.

    * The vampiric hierachy is explained, it always seemed a bit troublesome from the first edition.

    * I never understood how vampires could wield such power, when everyone knew that they are vampires. This has now changed with that a vampire have two “faces” (Thin Angel/Buffy the Vampire Slayer). This to me adds to more creepyness with this “race”. Now one can not be certain excatly who is a vampire and who is not.

    * There is a new Vampire Hunter OCC that is really interesting as well as an upgrade to the Atlantean Undead Slayer OOC from world book 2.

    The bad stuff about the book:

    * As stated above, the author has completely ignored other books and the official RIFTS timeline in this revised edition.

    * In such a dangerous world as Vampire Kingdoms in Rifts, it is strange that all the all the cities are exactly the same as in the original book. It feels as if the author has just copy/pasted everything about the cities from the original version and added a level and two at certain places. Almost nothing new has happened to the cities.

    * There are contradictions in who can be a vampire: It is not clear if a Mind Melter or partial Borg can be a vapire or not? The books says different things on different pages.

    Rating 5/10.

    Graphics:
    When it comes to graphic and art, I must say that I am not wildly happy about all the new art, but then agai I am happy that the original Kevin Long favorites are still there (Though I miss some, I am still happy to see so many). And the Cover is amazing.

    Rating: 9/10

    Mechanics:
    After 20+ years of publishing books for multiple lines of the megaverse universe. Palladium Books still must have a gender based mechanics and type down to the last person how many that lives in a city, not to forget that vampires roam around (as stated in the original post) in groups of 2D6+6.

    Mechanics get: 3/10

    Total rating: 5.5/10

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