Review: Palladium Books – Thundercloud Galaxy (Rifts)


Rifts Dimension Book 14: Thundercloud Galaxy
Thundercloud Galaxy is a Dimension Book supplement filled with fantasy sci-fi for Rifts published by Palladium Books and written by Kevin Siembieda and Braden Campbell.
By Aaron T. Huss

Thundercloud Galaxy is the latest Dimension Book sourcebook for Rifts covering many different aspects of the Thundercloud Galaxy ranging from background and history to indigenous races and bestiary. There is a plethora of new options for player characters and some very valuable tool-kits for Game Masters. The Thundercloud Galaxy is filled with interesting elders, various racial types, and a wealth of new opportunities; all contained within a single book that opens the mind to a new world of splendid adventures and campaigns.

The Thundercloud Galaxy

Thundercloud Galaxy starts with a look at its history and current events. This includes a delve into the Elder races and their wicked counterparts the Dominators. The Dominators were a dangerous race who the Elder races decided to put an end to (mostly), causing the galaxy to change forever. After this horrific event and the galaxy settling down, the current events and background are put into motion. This includes a look at some of the major intergalactic groups and their (continuing) conflicts and how these conflicts started. The overall time-line moves along nicely, presenting the reader with a good “million mile” look at the major events within the galaxy.

This time-line soon moves on to The Scramble, the main purpose of many of the current happenings within the galaxy. The Scramble is basically a colonization of the galaxy, with attempts to snatch all planets that can sustain life. Think of it as the intergalactic version of colonial America. This colonization has led to a discovery of different races and bestiary along with finding new allies, enemies, and neutral parties. It’s quite an interesting concept of what it would be like to discover a galaxy and imagining the rush of cultures to colonize this new galaxy. Especially considering that there are possibly tens of thousands of planets available.

The Thundercloud Enigma

The Thundercloud Enigma is the guts and details of the Thundercloud Galaxy description, honing in on specific details and expanding upon them significantly. Much of this is devoted to what occurred between the Elder races and the Dominators, along with other, possible outcomes (such as some Dominators survived the fallout). This section then moves into the details of the Elder Races along with a template to create these god-like beings. This section then move on to the Dominator race (with the assumption that some could still exist) including their incredible technology. This technology includes warfare weapons and armor.

The Gene-Tech species is the third race to be detailed, believed to be part of the Elder races. The Gene-Tech are a highly advanced race that uses genetic engineering to basically live as immortal. This is achieved through various methods and includes their own genetic manipulation, creating supernatural powers. Templates and in-game mechanics are presented for these various types of genetic manipulation, creating some extraordinary results. The fourth race is the Bushi Federation, a humanoid race that gathers influence from feudal Japan and Japanese folklore. From this race, you begin to see a trend in variety between the different races making them very unique from one to another. The Bushi Federation is a very wary race who would prefer to be left alone, but have decided to join one of the (less unfavorable) groups that are part of The Scramble.

The fifth and final race in the Thundercloud Enigma section is the Denlech Settlers, a group of low-tech humans who prefer to live in farming-type communities and relinquishing the need for lots of technology. The Denlech are an important race in that their planet contains a valuable resource that a large intergalactic company wants to get their hands on. This leads to the knowledge that the Denlech may be low-tech but they possess supernatural abilities due to their stay within the Thundercloud Galaxy. Again, a lot of variety and flavor fleshes out between these different races. A full template is included for creating Denlech characters.

People of the Thundercloud

People of the Thundercloud is a look at the indigenous races from the Thundercloud Galaxy, many of whom spent many centuries in slavery. This section is much less detailed than the previous races, possibly because they have less stature within the galaxy but this is really up to the GMs discretion. Each race includes a great looking illustrations, full description, and the applicable template to create in-game characters. This list is not only a good size but also extremely unique from race to race ranging from the humanoid werehyena Bultungin race to the demon-like cannibalistic Kasaro to the insect-like mage race Shakdan. The variety really presents players and GMs with lots of options for different character types.

This section also includes a bestiary of commonly found monsters and exotic creatures within the Thundercloud Galaxy. Again, each one is fully described and include an illustration and template for creating in-game characters. Capping off this section are two fantastic tool-kits and a list of new gear. The gear includes exotic weapons and equipment, spacecraft, and power armor. The tool-kits, however, are another story.

This section includes two wonderful tool-kits. The first tool-kit is a Monster Creation Guideline designed for creating Thundercloud Galaxy creatures with all the necessary Rifts stats and specifications. Starting with the standard Attributes and moving on to size, SDC, MDC, HP, horror, PPE, and more. Each one contains multiple options with an associated d100 roll. The tool-kit then moves on to the flavor and depth details which includes evolutionary features, characteristics based on environment, dietary disposition, hunting abilities, and primary food type. Not only does this tool-kit contain all the applicable Rifts mechanics, but many of the descriptive selections contains a generic header (such as size: small, large, very large, etc…) that can be translated into game-terms for other systems. This is a fantastic and detailed creature creation tool-kit.

An even more valuable tool-kit rounds out this section, a Colony Creation Table. This is an extremely valuable tool-kit for GMs who don’t have the time to sit down and create their own colonies on the different worlds. This creation guide includes sponsoring organization, size, alignment, trade, environment, natural resources, facilities, energy, transportation, tech level, and more. While Rifts mechanics are sprinkled throughout, most of this is based off of source material and content allowing the GM to translate much of the mechanics themselves. In addition, you could easily use this to create colonies for other systems and settings. This is an excellent tool-kit that can create wonderful campaign frameworks by placing the PCs within the confines of this newly created colony and dealing with all of the conflicts.

101 Adventures

Thundercloud Galaxy wraps up with a list of 101 adventure seeds based on the discovery of ruins, seemingly in a newer colony or nearby an existing one. Each adventure seed is associated with a d100 roll and properly detailed to elicit adventure creation. There is a fantastic variety here and a mixture of Rifts mechanics and content-only seeds. Again, another tool-kit that can be used for other systems and settings.

OVERALL

Overall Thundercloud Galaxy is a solid and valuable sourcebook for Rifts. It contains a great variety of information on the Thundercloud Galaxy ranging from deadly races and player character races to bestiary and colony creation. GMs are sure to find a plethora of usable information while players may find a great amount of new options for character creation.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 7 out of 10
Thundercloud Galaxy is a well-written book with beautiful illustrations located at ideal locations. However, there are times where the content gets a little wordy and repetitive, almost as if the writer starts to ramble. While it’s purpose is for source material, some of the fat could be trimmed without losing any of the content. Thundercloud Galaxy also uses a very serial layout in which every piece of content is connected (physically on paper) to the previous section without any breaks. This can make referencing certain sections tricky as you have to thumb through multiple pages to find exactly what you want. This is as opposed to (for example) presenting new character/NPC races in a 2 – 3 page spread without any other content on those pages. Besides that, the content is fantastic and is filled with excellent source material, backgrounds, descriptions, details, and of course, in-game mechanics.

Mechanics: 10 out of 10
Thundercloud Galaxy is loaded with mechanics from cover to cover. Almost every section of source material has some type of in-game mechanic related or described. Palladium Books does an excellent job of tying content with in-game effects directly within the content itself. And this varies quite significantly from simple heights of the Thundercloud races to the in-game value of ancient technology. In addition, every race (PC, NPC, and bestiary) described within has all the applicable mechanics detailed and described so the players and/or GMs can create in-game characters. But Palladium Books doesn’t stop there. Within the pages of Thundercloud Galaxy are some beautiful GM tool-kits that can be used directly within Rifts or indirectly for other space opera systems. I love these tool-kits, partially because they are so detailed and cover so many aspects but mainly because they are essentially easy to use. You can either choose from the options presented or roll your d100 and locate the applicable option from the list.

Value Add: 10 out of 10
Thundercloud Galaxy is an extremely valuable book for Rifts Game Masters and even players. GMs will find a use for virtually everything in this book to create adventures and full campaigns within the Thundercloud Galaxy while players can find some new player races to choose from. The GM tool-kits increase the value of this book above and beyond Rifts while securing its value for any Rifts GM. Even if you do not intend to run any game within the Thundercloud Galaxy, there is a wealth of source content for races that are either indigenous or simply found within the Thundercloud Galaxy and encountered in the Corkscrew and Anvil galaxies. The possibilities are virtually endless.

Overall: 9 out of 10
Thundercloud Galaxy is a fantastic book filled with a vast amount of source material and in-game mechanics. One of its best features is the variety of “look and feel” of the different races presented throughout giving the GM and especially the players a myriad of options for gaming experiences. There are valuable tool-kits within and plenty of great looking illustrations. I would definitely recommend it to Rifts players and GMs, especially GMs.

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