Friday, July 17, 2009

Palladium Alumnus: Bill Coffin

(Today, we're pleased to have Samuel Van Der Wall of RoleplayingPro present a look at one of my favorite Palladium authors--Bill Coffin. Thanks, Samuel! -Zack).

Bill Coffin is a novelist, game designer, and journalist that wrote for Palladium Books primarily in the late 1990s. If you’ve played Palladium Fantasy, Rifts, Heroes Unlimited, or Systems Failure, odds are pretty good that you’ve used one of the books he wrote or contributed to. Many Palladium Books fans consider Bill as one of the best writers in the company’s history.

I had the fortune of talking to Bill Coffin via e-mail long ago when he was writing for Palladium Books. I was running a small website dedicated to Palladium Fantasy adventure ideas. Bill stumbled across my site, liked one of my adventure ideas, and asked me if he could put it in his next sourcebook that he was working on for Palladium Fantasy called The Baal-Gor Wastelands. I, of course, was ecstatic over the idea. The end result was the posting of a short Hook, Line, and Sinker adventure, which I had written called Gorum’s Bridge, in his Baal-Gor Wastelands sourcebook.

Bill was extremely professional with handling the adventure I created. He took the original concept of the adventure, modified it to fit into the Baalgor Wastelands sourcebook, and ramped up the intensity level. The end result was me getting to see my name and adventure in a Palladium book (check out page 210 of the Baalgor Wastelands sourcebook to see the adventure). My old Palladium adventure website is gone now, but that one adventure still lives on.

Bill Coffin & Palladium Books

As a writer, editor, and contributor, Bill Coffin is responsible for over a dozen game and sourcebooks that Palladium Books has to offer. His biggest contributions are with the Palladium Fantasy RPG and Rifts. Bill is credited as an author, editor, or contributor for the following Palladium works:

Heroes Unlimited:

- Century Station

- Gramercy Island

- Heroes Unlimited Galaxy Guide

- Aliens Unlimited Galaxy Guide

Palladium Fantasy:

- The Western Empire

- Baalgor Wastelands

- Mount Nimro, Kingdom of Giants

- The Library of Bletherad

- The Northern Hinterlands

- The Land of the Damned One: Chaos Lands

- Land of the Damned Two: Eternal Torment

- Wolfen Empire Adventure Sourcebook

Systems Failure RPG


- World Book 20: Xiticix Invasion (contributing writer)

- World Book 21: Rifts Canada (contributing writer)

- Coalition Wars 2: CS Overkill

- Coalition Wars 3: Sorcerers' Revenge

- Coalition Wars 4: Cyber-Knights

- Coalition Wars 6: Final Siege

- Dimension Book Five: Anvil Galaxy

- Rifts GM's Guide

- Rifts Book of Magic


Septimus is a hard-hitting science fiction adventure set in the distant future. It was written by Bill Coffin and initially supposed to be published using West End Games’ D6 System. However, in early 2008 it was reported that West End Games decided to cancel the release of the proposed 400 page, full color book. WEG believed it would be too expensive to produce and unable to create as a profitable game.

However, earlier this year it was announced that West End Games and Bill Coffin came back together and finished an agreement that would see the release of Septimus in August 2009. The major proposed change was that the interior of the book would now be printed in black and white instead of full color. This would reduce the production cost of the book and allow WEG to reduce the price from $50 to $42.

One of the biggest issues with this announcement is that many of the fans who initially preordered for the 2008 release stated they did not receive a refund of their preorder. WEG claims to have fixed the majority of these refunds or exchanges, but the issue has still left a bitter taste in the mouths of many fans. Unfortunately, the failures of WEG may cast a negative light on what is otherwise being looked at as a spectacular game. WEG stated they are going to release the game at GenCon 2009.

What Is Bill Coffin Doing Now?

Bill Coffin left Palladium Books in 2002. He just recently created a new WordPress blog that you can find at Hopefully it will be a bit easier to track his current writing projects. His blog lists him currently working in New York as the publisher and editorial director of ‘Risk Management’. He continues to write fiction and has two new books due out within the next year or so, Pax Arcadia (coming in 2009) and Pax Britannia (coming in 2010). As stated earlier, his sci-fi roleplaying game Septimus is to be released in August 2009.

(Zack's Note: Bill Coffin will be at the West End Games booth at Gen Con Indy, signing copies of both Septimus and his Pax Morgana novel).


JB said...

NIce profile. I've never heard of Bill Coffin, but it seems he came a bit late to the party for me (I stopped playing HU before 2nd edition, and stopped collecting Rifts after World Book 13 or so). If I'd seen his writing, maybe I'd still be playing Palladium.

I'll be sure to check out his new game. Thanks for the heads up!

Anonymous said...

Seems to me an important part of Bill Coffin's relationship with Palladium was left out of this article:

Zachary The First said...

Anonymous: Yeah, it's out there. But people can look at that if they want. I want to celebrate the guy's work, not focus on the negative.

Jason said...

Bill is a stand-up guy. I'm proud to call him a colleague and a friend. His work on Palladium Fantasy DEFINED that setting. To me (and many fans of that setting) his name is synonymous with it.

He's also one of three people who are triple-handedly (as it were) responsible for me not quitting game design (and possibly writing) altogether when things went sour for Palladium and me. For years I've told him I owe him a pint for that, and at last he's going to get to collect this year.

Bill Coffin said...

First things first...I had no idea this blog post was up until a friend told me, and I'm quite flattered by it! Thanks much to the author, who I definitely remember from the Ball-gor Wastelands project. He was an extremely nice guy who let me use some of his material that I was just really, really inspired by. I'm so glad he's happy with how that all turned out. It was a very nice bit of collaboration, that.

As for my regrettable, and well-publicized RPGnet rants about Palladium and Kevin, all I can say is this. Indeed, I sounded off on Kevin more than once, as those links in this thread show. However, I also apologized for my unprofessional behavior some time later, both on RPGnet, and on Palladium's own web forum. It doesn't excuse my ranting, of course.

Hope to see you all at West End Game's booth at Gen Con! I'm excited to be there. It'll be my first time.

Samuel Van Der Wall said...

Definitely looking forward to Septimus!