Wednesday, April 16, 2014

It Doesn’t Have To Be Perfect

There was an interesting thread the other day on theRPGsite, asking Game Masters to describe their worst campaign as a GM. My thoughts immediately went back to a HARP campaign I ran a few years back, where I wasn’t happy with my effort, the lack of screening I did with the group, or the missed sessions that ultimately doomed the campaign within the first month. Of course, that’s not the only game that I’ve failed at, but it’s probably the most memorable, as everything that could have gone wrong did so.

Whether you’re a Game Master new to the trade, or a more experienced GM frustrated with their results thus far, I think it’s very easy to get discouraged when you hear of all the other amazing campaigns folks are running out there. Of course you’re hearing about them: those are the successful ones. For every amazing campaign with an impressive website, enthused players, and brilliant ideas, there are a half-dozen campaigns that are trying to get some traction, or struggling to continue.

I’ll be honest—I consider myself a good Game Master, but I’ve had some absolute stinkers when it comes to my campaigns. Sometimes, you hit a home run, and sometimes, you strike out. The important thing is that you’re learning, trying, and not getting too down when it doesn’t work out. The most brilliant ideas sometimes just don’t jive with the group, or unforeseen scheduling issues doom everything, or perhaps the timing isn’t right. Sometimes, we act like GMing is something that can be carried out 100% perfectly, each time every time. That’s just not the case.

Your campaigns don’t have to be perfect, and neither does your track record. Whether you’re running your first session or your fortieth, there’s going to be trial and error. If you’re hesitant at trying your hand at Gamemastery because you don’t want to fail, or if you’re hesitant to give it another go because the last campaign didn’t work out so well, don’t be! The best way to become a better Game Master is to get out there and run games. Yes, every year I do a GM’s seminar, and spend some time checking out the ideas of other Game Masters and Referees, but that doesn’t do any good if it all stays theoretical. If you’re paying attention, you learn more from an hour running a game than twenty outside the game reading up on GM tips (although the latter doesn’t hurt!).

I guess what I’m saying is, if you’re reading this, and you want to Game Master, get out there and do it. If you’re worried or intimidated, don’t be. We’ve all been there. Start small if you want, start with something you know, but above all, just start. No one is going to remember the hesitations or the wonky bits. They will remember when everything clicks, the players buy in, and the awesome stuff happens. As a Game Master, that’s the sort of fun you live for, and why you do it. Don’t worry about the bumps in the road getting there—because you most definitely aren’t alone.

Friday, April 11, 2014

10 Underrated Palladium Books

I’m gearing up for another Rifts campaign later this year, and along with that, I’ve been filling some holes in my collection, and rereading a few old titles. A lot of gamers don’t realize just how many books Palladium has put out over the year, or how many titles they’ve kept in print; a good estimation of that number can be gained here. With that in mind, here are 10 underrated Palladium game books that deserve at least another look:

10) Northern Hinterlands (Palladium Fantasy)
Players don’t always think of heading to a snowy waste as too much of a challenge, but Northern Hinterlands not only makes it perilous, but it fills the Great Northern Wilderness with colonies, trappers, strange treasures, lost gods, and untold treasures. This is a region that is perfect for long-term sandbox play, and it seems like there’s an idea for an encounter or quest on every page. Of the later Palladium Fantasy titles, Northern Hinterlands stands easily with the earlier, more well-known books.

9) Beyond the Supernatural, 1st Edition
Many gamers today never had any experience with the first iteration of BTS, which was a fun, creepy game that was a favorite of players that wanted to go “monster hunting”…only to often find themselves hunted in return. The Victim class was absolutely brilliant, and “got” horror gaming in a really fantastic way. This game really worked—not just for paranormal investigated or hunting monsters, but for playing games in which you were just trying to survive. Beyond the Supernatural 2nd Edition is still somewhat of an incomplete game for now (awaiting dedicated monsters and magic supplements), but if you can find a copy of BTS 1e, it is well worth the effort. The going rate for a decent used copy is about $7-8, which is a great bang for the buck (you can also find it over at RPGNow).

8) Deluxe Revised RECON
A bit of an odd duck in that it does not use Palladium’s Megaversal system, Deluxe Revised Recon is a retooling of Joe Martin’s original Vietnam-era combat game. Written by Erick Wujcik, it takes what many gamers might find a limited or unappealing genre, and manages to turn it into a pretty interesting take on Vietnam War soldiers and combat characters in general. Then again, what else would you expect from the late, great Erick Wujcik?

7) Splicers RPG
Carmen Bellaire and Kevin Siembieda did fine work on the world of Splicers, set in a future where a terrible nano-virus forces humans to turn to organic technology to combat the relentless, exterminating machine overlords. To date, the Splicers, has only seen the main book released, though there’s absolutely plenty of fertile ground for more development. There’s enough in here to use easily with games like Rifts or Heroes Unlimited, and some of the tech described rivals the coolest games like Rifts have to offer.

6) Rifts: England
Sometimes panned for its portrayal of New Camelot (Merlyn, or Myrrlyn, as an Alien Intelligence?), World Book 3: England doesn’t boast the power level of many books even released around the same time. That’s part of why I love it. Rifts: England speaks to a sparser, wilder, more mystic Rifts Earth, where there are very few major powers, and a good old basic laser pistol from the old Main Book could serve you well. Reading England again, it’s a place primed for adventure, and probably deserves a higher level of esteem than it usually garners.

5) Baalgor Wastelands (Palladium Fantasy)
Set in a part of the Palladium Fantasy world that is often overlooked, Baalgor Wastelands is a fantastic book that offers some unique looks at challenges and culture in a desert wasteland environment. The descriptions of the Wasteland’s perils make it clear this is not an area for the faint of heart, and the races and cultures in the book lend everything a unique cast while still making the region seem a living, breathing mix of enemies, animals, and a relentless, daunting struggle to survive.

4) Systems Failure RPG
Released in 1999 at the height of the Y2K scare, Systems Failure describes a world invaded by Bugs, who invade this alternate Earth at the end of the century. They are capable of traveling through power and phone lines, and soon reduce humanity to a group of survivors, desperately fighting back against this dire threat. This is a surprisingly tight little RPG, although it was essentially released as a one-and-done line, with some official add-ons coming by way of the Rifter. No longer in print, it’s available at various places online for $5-6, and is definitely worth a look. With any luck, Palladium will consider adding it to DriveThruRPG one day soon.

3) Rifts: Mystic Russia
Mystic Russia seems to be often overlooked by Rifts fans, and that’s a shame, because the magic in this book is some of the more unique and evocative arcana of the entire Rifts line. The Old Believer and Fire Sorcerer aren’t mega-powered classes, but they have a sort of utility about them that makes them a great addition to any party. The woodland spirits, necromancy, and the awesome Mystic Kuznya class (essentially an arcane blacksmith) are not to be missed. I’ve always considered this one of Kevin Siembieda’s best works in terms of Rifts titles.

2) Gramercy Island (Heroes Unlimited)
Heroes Unlimited gets two big nods on this list, with the first being Gramercy Island, a sourcebook detailing a max-security special prison set up for super villains and criminal masterminds. If you want a host of bad guys to use in your game, this book is a fantastic resource. The baddies in here can stop even the toughest hero in their tracks, and there’s something to attack just about any sort of vulnerability. This is a fine sourcebook for inspiration, regardless of your Supers RPG of choice.

1) Century Station (Heroes Unlimited)
I have perhaps used no Palladium product with other games as much as I have used Century Station. This packed sourcebook details a massive city setting, complete with districts, local personalities, industry, entertainment, and an array of heroes and villains to round everything out. I consider it perhaps the best superhero RPG sourcebook of all time. Bill Coffin’s writing here was top-notch, and the entire book is an absolute idea factory.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Breachworld Kickstarter Ends This Weekend!

Just a quick reminder, the Breachworld Kickstarter is due to finish up on Sunday. I love post-apocalyptic kitchen-sink settings, and I think Mini Six is a fantastic iteration of the d6 system, so there's really nothing here for me not to love. The art and stretch goals Jason Richards has put together look awesome, and I can't wait to see how the finished product looks.

In any case, if you're also a fan of good art, good kitchen sink post-apocalyptic settings, and a good d6 system, make sure to check out Breachworld before the final gun sounds on this Kickstarter.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Breachworld Kickstarter

Jason Richards has been one of my favorite Palladium authors for a long time now. He's one of the best "kitchen-sink" writers I know of, and he's now struck out on his own on an exciting new project. Called Breachworld, this is another take on a post-apocalyptic, kitchen-sink setting. It's using the Mini Six system, and it's really great to see some more d6 goodness out there--especially of the post-apocalyptic variety!

Anyhow, you'll want to check out this Kickstarter. The game is just about complete, the art is ordered, and it seems like a pretty solid risk calculation. Also, the funding tiers seem reasonable, as do the add-ons. I'm definitely in for one of the early bird spots (which means Jason will pick up the shipping). The art and ideas make this one to at least take the time to review.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

About That Palladium Podcast...

There was a pretty nice reaction from the first episode of Radio Free Palladium (thanks!), so I went ahead and tried an Episode 2 (it can't be any worse than when George Lucas had the same idea). This one deals with some common NPC issues in Palladium games (and games in general, I suppose).

Thanks to everyone who checked it out and provided feedback. Please, keep it up! I think some of the discussion in the show is good for gaming in general, but there are also some more Rifts and Palladium Fantasy-specific topics in the hopper. I guess we'll see where it all leads!

Check out Radio Free Palladium Episode 2 here.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Rifts Fans, I Need Your Help With A Survey!

So, here’s the deal. There are plenty of discussions over the relative power levels of this Rifts book or that. For a long time, I’ve wanted to see which books really are the most popular, where the perceived “power curve” starts, ebbs, or ends, and just what Palladium gamers really think are the most quality Rifts books out there.

If you’re a Rifts Game Master or player, please take 10-15 minutes to fill out the form below. I’d really like to garner over 100 responses, and chart just where a survey of fans places each Rifts World Book in terms of quality and power level. I want to see what patterns we might discern, and if there’s any sort of consensus on which books truly are of the best quality or highest power level.

This is not a debate (though it likely might lead to a few); it is simply your opinion. You are simply considering each book as it compares to the line as a whole. In other words, you don’t need to show your math; just rate each with your impression. If you have no experience with a particular listed book or books, skip them and move on.

The link to the quiz is here. Please share with other Rifts fans—the more quality responses I can obtain the better. No, I’m not a professional pollster (obviously), but I am curious to see what the results are! Here is the link to the form:


I will keep the survey live for two weeks, after which time I will share the data here with what we find out. Thanks very much for your participation. I know this isn’t 100% (or even 60%) scientific, but hopefully we get some good participation. I’m hoping we get some good data we can cover and dissect on a future episode.

(Please note I did not include Dimension Books and Conversion Books in this survey—one, because I needed to make it manageable, and two, I wanted to compare how different parts of Rifts Earth themselves were covered, so I’m sticking with World Books for this study).

Thanks for your help!

Monday, February 17, 2014

I Thought I'd Try A Palladium Podcast...

I've been toying with the idea of doing a short podcast, and I figured I should probably start with something I know. That (short) list includes Palladium Books, and that's how I landed on doing the Radio Free Palladium Podcast.

I'm still not sure how often I'll do these, or what the final format will be, but it's starting off life as a half-hour (or so) show dedicated to Palladium Books, Rifts, Palladium Fantasy, Heroes Unlimited, and other Palladium titles. I'll be doing news, listener comments, and 1-2 reviews or topics per episode. I know there are some Palladium fans out there, so I hope you'll give it a listen. I'm not sure what the reception will be, or just how far this will go, but I thought I'd give it a try.

Episode 1 consists of an introduction, thoughts on game balance, and a closer look at the Rogue Scholar from Rifts. You can check it out at, or you can find the mp3 download direct link here. Thanks for checking out, and I'll apologize in advance for my limited capabilities.