Federation of Magic (1997)

Up next is Rifts World Book 16: The Federation of Magic.

I chose this one for two reasons. Primarily, as is the way with 90% of Rifts books, it has awesome cover art. The interiors are pretty great too. Kevin Long isn’t present, but the artist who are have significantly upped the skulls and masks game and, in the case of the Mystic Knights (I think that is what they are) combined the two to excellent effect.

Second, FoM appeared seven years into Rifts’ run. Rifts itself was the culmination of about ten years of design work on Palladium’s in-house system and combined pretty much all their previous game lines. By 1997, that means we’re talking 16 years of development without a real line editor (RPG line editors make sure every entry into a setting makes sense continuity-wise and that readers new to the material aren’t overwhelmed by that continuity). Instead, you have Kevin Siembieda essentially doing the heavy lifting of creating the line by himself, with no one to rein in his unfettered creativity.

This makes the book impenetrable. Where Atlantis was dense, I can at least flip through it and get a sense of what is going on. Federation of Magic is absolutely beyond me. No matter where I decide to dip into the text, it is packed with jargon and dripping with lore.

I suspect this is actually important to Rifts’ success. As I mentioned on Monday, creator Kevin Siembieda had a history in comics and Rifts books had a tendency to turn up on comic shop shelves. What better place was there to pick up a huge untapped market of teens who had never played RPGs before? Rifts books are the equivalent of cocaine for continuity brains, the exact same brains that are drawn to superhero comics. If I had gotten into Rifts in high school, I would have stopped at nothing to learn everything I could about the setting, because that’s how the books are structured. There’s always an intriguing reference to something else.

Sadly, I am not a high schooler anymore, so my window of opportunity to be able to rattle off facts about Rifts the way I can Star Wars and super hero comics is pretty firmly closed.

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