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.


AJ Fritz said...

Don't forget Palladium Fantasy 1st Edition Core. It comes from a time when SDC was reserved for non-living items. The armor is both ablative and descructive. For a gritty fantasy setting where death is a real threat, it's great.

Also the magic was well defined and varied, including wards, summoning and circle magic as specific schools.

Available from DTRPG for ~$12 I think.

Zachary Houghton said...

Oh, absolutely, AJ. PFRPG 1e is one of my favorite RPGs of all time. It’s a brilliant fork in the road from AD&D, and is jam-packed full of ideas everywhere. It’s just a great game, start to finish.

Edward Wilson said...

I've never played much of the Palladium line, but I loved the Mechanoids books. Well, I loved reading them but I still don't see how the PCs would last more than about 30 seconds against even one mechanoid in actual play. But anyway, Mechanoids and TMNT and Other Strangeness are my two faves.

Obiri said...

I always loved Underseas. There was something about playing a whalesinger (dolphin) that appealed to me. We never did do a sea campaign though.

Zachary Houghton said...

Underseas has a lot of good ideas that are sort of tough to bring into a land-based campaign offhand. I've found coastal adventures and trying to travel by ship to Europe really help with that.

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