Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Passion of Palladium

In terms of tone, some RPGs read like dry old college professors. Others are warm and engaging. Some read like a drill sergeant, and other like a guy earnestly reading his bad poetry to a Friday-night cafe crowd.

Palladium's books read like the two most excited wrestling announcers in the world witnessing a zero-gravity caged death match when a guy with a chain saw bursts up through the mat and one of the wrestler's managers rampages into the ring riding a grizzly bear. Also, there is a laser light show going on.

And perhaps more than anything, that is the reason I love Palladium Fantasy and Rifts in the manner in which I do. Kevin S., the dear, departed Erick Wujcik, and many of the others through the years conveyed an almost "can you believe this?" sense of excitement throughout their books. And when a company is excited about the product they're putting out, I am, too. I hate when companies make a product and make it feel like they're just filling in the blanks for different niches or requirements. (Latter-era D&D 3.5 was especially bad about this--little passion, subdued writing--nothing but the base requirements so that would have this type of caster, this race, or this prestige class).

Whether it is breathlessly describing the exact number of demons killed in a battle (743), or becoming so excited about the damage of a weapon it must be expressed in italics and multiple exclamation points (4d6x4 S.D.C.!!!), or assuming that each idea presented is a veritable gaming revelation, Palladium tends to write their books with a fervor usually reserved for religious dissidents. Palladium Fantasy basically says, "Look, this crap is amazingly fun. Here's some charts, here's some classes, here's 5 types of magic, and unlike Russell in your last gaming group, we think it would KICK ASS if you played an Ogre who worships Thoth and wants a Souldrinker Runesword. Now let's go to the Isle of the Cyclops and see about buying some Lightning Weaponry!"

To be sure, there's little subtlety in the approach, and I suppose that tone could get on the nerves of some. It's also very easy to mock, as anyone who's ever gone within three links of RPGnet will tell you. But I find it utterly charming, and part of the best asset Palladium has--crazy-ass, fantastical ideas, put forth with nary a shred of restraint or moderation.

She may not be the prettiest girl in the bar, but Palladium is a tigress in the sack.


John Fiala said...

Oh, *yes*. That's it to a T.

Even though I haven't played anything Palladium based in years, I still buy some of their books and often pick up the Rifter, partially because of just this. (and for the Rifter, because it's nice to have a physical magazine to read.)

The company is far from perfect, but they're in it for the mutant attack bears for the laser eyes, and they're not leaving until someone's head has exploded... preferably someone else's.

Quim said...

Amen to that man!

Yes, Palladium is all about the vibe, the goove, the excitement of the game...and I love it!

Mike said...

Great analogy.

I played Rifts for years. I still occasionally buy the books to mine them for ideas.

My games always needed tons of houserules to work. The way Palladium treats some of its freelancers is disgraceful, and some of their other business decisions are dubious at best. I always felt that Palladium's success came in spite of itself.

But damn it, the games were always a hell of a lot of fun. :)

Ryan said...

I am most definitely not a Palladium fan, but I find that I must agree with you; the enthusiasm of the Palladium crew is undeniable and they make absolutely no apologies for what they like and what they publish. There is a fellow who is going to be running several different Palladium games at a local con this summer...perhaps I will give it another shot.

James V said...

As a long-time RIFTS fan, I have my issues, especially their rules. While I have proven myself up to the task of taming and GMing that ferocious wombat they decided to write as rules for that game, but I'm not as young as I used to be and sometimes my patience runs short.

That is, until I read the books or actually run the game with my group. Sheer, unabashed fun. Fault Palladium whereever you want, but they bring the Game in RPGs.

Grungydan said...

Yes, yes, a thousand MDC YES!

Thank you! It made my curmudgeonly gaming day to read something about Palladium that wasn't some kid that's never played it or even read the main book bashing it for a problem that it doesn't have. :)

Zachary The First said...

Thanks guys! Glad you enjoyed it!

I stray to other systems--I love Castles & Crusades right now--but Palladium remains a favorite. There might be stuff they do I disagree with, but they also do an awful lot right.

Dyson Logos said...

This reminds me how badly I need to get a fresh copy of the pre-Rifts edition of the Palladium Fantasy RPG.

I loved that game. To the point that the spine shattered and pages floated around the gaming table...

Norman Harman said...

Never played but I totally got hooked on reading Rifts setting books and the ongoing history of war between Tolkeen and those magic/mutant hating Nazi analogs.

I see that as direct analogy of gamer styles.

"Bear Calvary, fuck yeah!" crowd vs the "Bear mounts would eat too much and their physiology is not suited for riding and blah blah blah!"

Doc_Savage said...

I'm playing in a Rifts group right now. Good goup, great GM, but do jesus does the system suck. And the editing and the layout!

Still though I've put one Cyberknight in the grave fighting the major end-story final boss (blackguard cyberknight, awsome lishtsab... er psisword duel in the middle of a huge confrontation) and started a smart ass crackerjack pilot elf chick techno-wizard. The characters man, its all about the characters.