Friday, October 28, 2011

Praise for Palladium Fantasy & Thoughts on Palladium Books

I have read several rants on a few message boards that stated the writer would welcome the demise of Palladium Books.  I am not a fan boy nor do I turn a blind eye to any mistakes on the part of Palladium Books but I would like to see them not only recover but make a big comeback.  Their products always felt like the company that made them were a group of fans that got lucky and hit the big time.  I think an RPG industry without Palladium would be worse by their absence.

I started playing Palladium RPGs sometime around the mid to late 80's to the best of my recollection.  My buddy Jamie and I noticed a copy of Palladium Fantasy Role Playing Game that looked really cool so we pooled our money and bought it.  Of course, we rushed back to his mother's house and started checking it out immediately. We literally spent hours flipping through the pages and taking turns passing the book back and forth between us.  There were two teenage role-players really excited that summer day about the contents of that one book.

As we flipped through the pages of Palladium Fantasy, there were several things that caught our attention.  First, we noticed the rules were somewhat similar to AD&D so it would make learning this game much easier; unlike AD&D, we played using all of the rules.  Second, there was also an abundance of "official stats" for playing many more races and classes than in AD&D.  Who would not want to try something different from the typical player character options?  Third, the alignment system was a nice touch in my eyes.  There were lists of actions in each alignment description that guided players in the actions of their characters.  Fourth, Palladium had a full blown percentile skill system in contrast to the AD&D secondary skills.  Fifth, Palladium had many small details such as the illustrations of the money.  There wasn't just a listing of the generic gold piece, silver piece, etc. as in AD&D but there were actual names for the coins with illustrations of the respective currency.  Finally, there was the biggest difference between the two games - you only needed one book to play Palladium Fantasy.  It was great to have all of the information required in one rule book.  Granted, supplemental books would add further options and adventures in the palladium world but the fact remained that you only needed one book to play the game.  In contrast, when RIFTS would hit years later we would buy up the latest source books as soon as possible.

 After learning the rules, we played quite a bit of Palladium Fantasy.  We continued to play AD&D but for a time the focus was clearly on Palladium Fantasy.  In fact, our Palladium group was bigger than our AD&D group and shared some of the same players.  One funny fact is that we never bought any of the supplemental material.  I don't know why but we just didn't feel it "necessary" the same way it did for our AD&D game.  This isn't a judgement about either game, just a noted difference in our perspective on the necessity of further material within our group.  That isn't to say that we didn't use any expansion material in our games, though.  We shared ideas and adapted rules between AD&D and Palladium Fantasy and even developed some custom Occupational Character Classes.

We had many successful sessions of Palladium Fantasy over the years.  Eventually, we moved on to play other games. Palladium Fantasy was one of the few besides AD&D and V&V that we would return to play again.  I know many people think D&D when it comes to fantasy adventure gaming but I always think of Palladium Fantasy in the same instant.  I do have the second edition of Palladium Fantasy but I have yet to do any actual play using the rules.  It seems the rules have become a little bloated from first edition but that's just a general impression.  I also noticed that it looks like the complete line of Palladium Fantasy first edition is available on DriveThruRPG.  I may have to buy them and get another Palladium Fantasy campaign up and going.

That's my experience with Palladium Fantasy and why I remember it so fondly.  The other Palladium products I have played include Chaos Earth, Heroes Unlimited, RIFTS, and Robotech; I am interested in picking up Dead Reign to see what they have done with the Zombie genre.  I know that many people have problems with Palladium due to their release schedule snafus and the stories of board room politics that have taken place at their offices.  I understand the release schedule irritation and have no defense for the delays and cancellation of products.  As far as the politics go, all I can say is that there are two sides to every story and I did not witness any of the drama so I have no opinion on that.  The one thing I am sure of is the feeling of creativity that I get when I crack open a Palladium book.  There might be problems with the rules themselves but the story and background seems to be top notch every time.

I admit it - I'm a big time Palladium Fantasy fan even without playing in years.  I also enjoy their other products that I have picked up; mainly Chaos Earth and RIFTS.  While I do enjoy their products and want them to make a comeback, I think there are several things Palladium must do to thrive:

The Palladium system has been around since the 80's. Having been revised and expanded over the years, it is time to consolidate, clean up, and clarify all the rules.  The rules don't have to be completely overhauled but putting all references on a related topic together would be a good starting point.  A further re-organization to the rules would probably helps also.  I've heard that Kevin Siembieda does not even use the rules as published, so why not a look at the rules he does use?  All of these thoughts tie into the thought of a unified main core rule book.

Megaversal Rule Book
After a thorough revision of the rules, they should be consolidated into a nice hardback rule compendium.  I know some of the fans are very vocal about not wanting hardback because of increased prices but I think this is one expense well worth it.  With the Megaversal rules in one rule book then the core book for each game line could include a small section at the beginning about rule differences for that game.  The core rule book for each game could then focus on that game instead of reprinting the entire rule system in every time.  Yes, it would take two books to play a Palladium game but each core book would just be about that game instead of half the rule book being a reprint.  While you're at it, make the core books hardback also and leave the softbound books for source books.

Release Schedule
I completely understand the excitement about a new product and wanting to share the information with your loyal customers.  In doing so, there is no reason to give a firm release date until the actual release date is a short time away.  There are several books that have been announced at several different times with the release date getting pushed numerous times.  Eventually, the book is taken off the release schedule again.  It seems that this is currently happening with RIFTS Lemuria once again.

Simply put, support ALL of the game lines - not just RIFTS.  I know RIFTS is like their stallion product at the moment but you can not grow a game line without supporting it by releasing new products.  It doesn't have to be a flood of new products but just throw a bone to fans of Chaos Earth, Dead Reign, Heroes Unlimited, Palladium Fantasy and the rest of the game lines several times a year.



Friday, October 21, 2011

Gamma World

We're in the process of moving so I am making a lazy post today just to say this is what I picture when I think of Gamma World.

'nuff said!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

[Adventures in Fantasy] Book of Faerry and Magic Pt. 2

Let's dig into the Basic Magic portion of the Book of Faerry and Magic on this examination of Adventures in Fantasy.

Basic Magic
The introduction to Basic Magic informs the reader that the magic rules are "an effort to recreate, as simply as possible, the actual manner in which Sorcery was thought to be accomplished".  On one hand, this sounds very interesting because the way magic was believed to work in the medieval period of real history.  On the other hand, this sounds burdensome for the very same reason.  Magic in the medieval times was very formulaic and ritualistic.  A spell would probably involve gathering a complex list of ingredients, performing an exacting ritual, and observing a strict timeline of events.  In other words, medieval magic would make a good scary story but it would not be fun to play.

There are three conditions of apprenticeship for a player character to be a magic-user.  First, it takes a minimum intelligence score of 43 to use basic magic.  Intelligence determines the number of Magic Points and the possible spells learned during the apprenticeship.  Second, the master that teaches your player character must be higher than level 8.  Third, an apprenticeship requires a full year of study.  This time must be completed in a consecutive block of time.  If it is interrupted then all training is lost.

Spell Alignment
The spells available to magic-user player characters fall into one of three categories: Lawful, Neutral, or Chaotic.  Each magic-user will also be one of these alignments depending on spell selection.  There are restrictions that come with each alignment; Lawful magic-users are prohibited from learning Chaotic spells and the reverse is also true, Lawful and Chaotic magic-users use Neutral spells with half effectiveness, and   Neutral magic-users can use spells of one of the other alignments at half effectiveness.

Spell List
The list of spells is split into 4 categories: Non-Alignment, Chaotic, Neutral, and Lawful.  There are 28 Non-Alignment spells, 17 Chaotic spells, 25 Neutral spells, and 17 Lawful spells for a grand total of 87 spells.  In all honesty, some of the spell names are "less than inspiring" when you read the list.  They might be accurate in relation to medieval times but this is a heroic fantasy game so is there really a use for spells such as agriculturecreate music, curse crops, and gambling?

Spell Descriptions
All of the spells are arranged in alphabetical order and they are not separated by alignment.  The descriptions are pretty straightforward and in addition to the effects also lists the alignment and magic point cost to use the spell.  Some of the spell descriptions need to be fixed.  For example, the agriculture descriptions reads "this spell will increase the yield of one acre of land by 25%" at the beginning of the description but ends with "effect doubles yield of the field".  The spell description for commotion does not list the alignment or the magic point cost so you have to reference the spell list to find the information.  Not a huge deal, just an inconvenience.

That's it for now.  The examination of the Book of Faerry and Magic continues with Permanent Magic.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

[Adventures in Fantasy] Book of Faerry and Magic Pt. 1

Next stop on the AiF examination is Book II: Book of Faerry and Magic.  As usual, I begin with a quick flip through of the manual and see what grabs my attention.  I did notice three things about this rule book. First, there is no indication on the cover that this is book 2 but there is on the title page. Second, the ink inside of the book is green like the green cover. Third, the very low amount of art in this book.

The Cover
The cover art depicts a magical duel between two wizards.  One appears to be an elf and the other appears to be something like an orc or hobgoblin.  It's a pretty straightforward piece but it serves to show the magical powers in command by the two wizards in battle.

The Introduction
The authors point out in the introduction that this book covers two systems of magic - one for man and one for faerry.  The magic of man involves rituals and gods while the races of faerry tap into and mold the "essential force that exists in all matter".  This manual is only an introduction and the basics of the magic system.  The introduction also mentions that there will be two expansions to the material presented in this book.  One expansion will cover the magic system of man and the other expansion will cover the races of faerry in great detail.

Table of Contents
A quick glance at the table of contents shows there are various topics besides just magic spells.  In addition to Basic magic and Faerry magic there are also sections on permanent magic, sorcerous combat, restrictions on magicians, magical fatigue, songs of the faerry, runes of the faerry, the faerry races, and elementals.

There are only 4 pieces of art in this whole book.  The artwork that is present is appropriate to the subject material but I believe that more artwork would be helpful to set the tone.  Images of some of the spells being used, the faerry races, runes of the faerry, or the elementals would be useful to the players.

That's enough for now since I just wanted to offer a very basic outline of the Book of Faerry and Magic.  I will begin with Basic Magic in my next AiF post.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Second Thoughts About Second Edition

I admit it - I'm taking the easy way out and doing a lazy post today.  I'm taking this opportunity to say "I didn't give second edition a fair chance".  Of course, the second edition I'm talking about is the AD&D second edition.  I remember the buildup to the release in Dragon magazine.  I was pretty excited and was looking forward to the new books.

My buddy Jamie got the 2E PHB and we went through it cover to cover.  I liked the clearer language and organization but I did not like what I felt was the "de-Gygaxing" of the rules.  That pretty much sums up my impression of the core books.  It felt sanitized and politically correct with the removal of Assassins, Barbarians, Half-Orcs, and many of the monsters.  I never bought the second edition books and never played in a straight second edition game either.

I have had the opportunity to look at the core books again and I must say that for the most part the game is better explained, organized, and presented.  Plus, it's close enough to AD&D to add back in anything that got "left out".  So, on a second look, I would play in a second edition game IF it was limited to the core books, certain first edition material added back in, & house rules.  I do know for a fact that I would avoid the Complete series of books and kits altogether.

There it is - a quick and lazy post.  I'm hitting the sack.  Maybe I'll write more about second edition sometime if I pick up the books or maybe one of the 2E retroclones...

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

[Old Gaming Notebook] Fantasy Board Game Project I

(The following information is presented as it originally appeared in one of my old gaming notebooks.)

In a Nutshell
Heroic figures explore dungeons, mazes, and other areas facing monsters, traps, and other hazards to reach their goal.

1 Hero Rule Book
1 Controller Rule Book
x# Map Boards
x# Hero counters
x# Monster counters
x# Trap tokens
x# Hazard tokens
x# Treasure tokens

(note: "x#" means an unspecified amount to be determined later.)

Expansion Material
Ideas for game material that could be added later.
Adventure Boxes: These boxes will contain the adventure, maps, & any additional pieces needed for play of the adventure.
Hero Pack: a pack of additional tokens and stats for new heroes.
Magic Pack: additional magical weapons for use in play.
Map Pack: additional boards to interlock with the boards from the basic set.


  • A male and female version of each Hero will be included in the box.
  • Map boards will be double sided so each side will have a different map configuration.
  • Basic Box will be huge because it has all of the initial setup pieces included.
  • Adventure Boxes will be smaller since they have just the additional pieces inside.
(This ends the Dungeon Crawl Fantasy Board Game Project entry from my old gaming notebook.)
(Information from this point on was not part of my old gaming notebook.)

There are times when you're just in the mood to just game - no desire to generate characters or go into a long drawn out process of setting up the game.  Dungeon Crawl The Fantasy Board Game Project was my answer for those times.   My initial idea was something resembling an advanced version of the old Dungeon board game or Dragon Strike. Gamers seem to love big boxed sets and this would have provided numerous little game pieces to mess with.   I think the game could have been expanded beyond the basic set with expansions like a maze with a minotaur, a wizard's tower, etc.  I got this design to the point of drawing up some mock pieces but I am not artist so that kind of killed my enthusiasm.  I may dust this off sometime and look into expanding upon the idea.

Monday, October 3, 2011

[Old Gaming Notebook] Auto Arena

(The following information is presented as it originally appeared in one of my old gaming notebooks.)

In a Nutshell
In a future where extreme sports have become the most popular forms of entertainment, this violent update to the traditional demolition derby has become the most popular of them all.  Competitors drive cars equipped with weapons and armor in a demolition derby style event set in a hazard-filled arena until the last car is left standing.

1 circular map board
1 square map board
x# car counters
x# hazard counters

(note: "x#" means an unspecified amount to be determined later)

Expansion Material
Ideas for game material that could be added later.
Arena Pack: A pack of new map boards, cars, & hazards.
Counter Pack: A pack of extra car & hazard counters for extra players.
Racing: An expansion with a new map board and rules for oval track racing events.
Scenario Pack: A pack of new scenarios; examples include amateur night, team play, etc.
Unsanctioned: Guidelines for outlaw and unsanctioned events.


  • Auto Arena will be set up in a league similar to NASCAR; different towns have different courses.
  • Would like to use modified Hot Wheels or Matchbox cars to represent the players.
  • The basic game would include a stock car list.
  • A later expansion would include rules for car customization and design.
  • Rules for setting up and running a league season with a championship.
(This ends the Auto Arena entry from my old gaming notebook.)
(Information from this point on was not part of my old gaming notebook.)

I know, I know - there's not a whole lot of detail included in the information above.  In the absence of Car Wars, I would definitely still like to design and play this game.  Honestly, when it comes to game design, board games are not my thing.  I have had several ideas and I will detail some of them here but I never seem to be able to get past the initial stages of design on a board game.  Maybe one of these days I will dust this off and give it a whirl...

Sunday, October 2, 2011

[Old Gaming Notebook] Overview

I imagine that many role-players have a notebook, or notebooks, that they keep all sorts of information stored. I always liked to use a 5 subject spiral notebook.  The information I included in these notebooks were D&D characters, game ideas, setting notes, house rules, and other assorted ideas; sometimes, I would include other non-gaming stuff in them also.  Of course, with the advent of computers I have pretty much migrated any gaming stuff I do to folders on my laptop.  I ran across one of my old gaming notebooks recently.  It was probably the most recent of the notebooks.  Anyway, let's take a look at the contents of this notebook.

Board Games
I have had several ideas that I would like to turn into board games but I have never actually completed the design of one of them.  I had ideas for 3 board games written in this notebook.

Army Men: This would probably more accurately be described as a war game instead of a board game.  I spent 8 years in the Army and I remember playing with those old plastic Army men out in the sandbox growing up.  I wanted to do a simple set of rules for fighting out battles with these figures because the mass of armies would be easy to purchased and assemble due to low costs.

Auto Arena: I was a big fan of Car Wars by Steve Jackson Games.  When it went out of print I was not happy.  My rules were misplaced years ago.  I started on an attempt to do a new version of vehicle combat rules.  It would share some similarities with Car Wars such as being set in the future and have fighting cars but it would also be different.  Auto Arena would be set up like NASCAR in a league format.  The drivers would go to different cities throughout the season and compete in an ultimate demolition derby type event.  Instead of just ramming, the drivers would also have guns and other equipment to use in the event.  The arenas at each location would be different in layout and makeup.

Dungeon Crawl: This would be a board game for when you were just in the mood to pick up and play.  It would be more detailed than the old DUNGEON board game from TSR but less complicated than D&D.

Role-Playing Games
I began playing D&D in 1980 with the Holmes Basic set.  Shortly after I began playing I started having ideas for games of my own.  I have designed several role-playing games but these three are subjects that I never finished.

A World In Ruins: Gamma World was probably the 3rd RPG I purchased.  I always enjoyed the game but I also wanted a grittier version of the setting.

Old School Role-Playing: This was actually planned as a series of games.  The first planned game was to be Old School Role-Playing: Fantasy Rules.  The inspiration for these rules were the games that followed after D&D early in the hobby.  Basically, the fantasy rules would be similar to D&D but include more options, more rules, and more crunch just as the early competitors did.

To The Stars...: This was to be inspired by the science fiction of the '50's and '60's films.  Of course, that means flying saucers, little green men, ray guns, and everything else.  I still think this could be a fun game to do.

House Rules
I also had various notes written down about house rule ideas for several games.

AD&D: Ideas about a new Ability Score generation method, a Hit Points variant idea, and a note that a racial bonus of +1 allows a score of 19.

D&D 3E: A breakdown of the racial traits listing in the race entries so custom races could be matched to the official entries.

RIFTS: Ideas on a low attribute table for the Palladium Megaversal system.

Risk: Submarine rules for the RISK board game.

I will post this information her soon...

Saturday, October 1, 2011

General Update

The demands of real life - kids, school, and work - have been keeping me pretty busy lately.  It seems things are slowing down somewhat and I am going to start posting more regularly.  With that being said, here's what can be considered the current state of affairs concerning my blog...

Adventures in Fantasy
I am enjoying the close examination of this gaming relic from the co-designer of D&D.  After making it completely through the Book of Adventure I think my opinion of AiF has changed.  I basically began with the opinion that AiF was simply "Arneson's D&D with percentile dice" and in some ways that is true.  It seems to be a game in serious need of a revision.  There are some good ideas sprinkled throughout the rules BUT the rules are also a confusing mess in spots.  I am not even confident that a legally created character can be created with the rules in the question. I am not 100% sure on the characteristic list, even.  I find parts of AiF very frustrating but I also find the subject fascinating because it gives a glimpse into the gaming mind of Arneson.  I will continue to examine AiF in future posts.  I also plan on attempting a few play sessions so I can develop some house rules.

That's the name of the campaign world used by my cousin Alex and myself.  Originally designed for D&D 3E then 3.5E and now Pathfinder.  I am leaving further Pathfinder development to Alex and I will focus my efforts on details for Microlite20, CFRPG, or some other less crunchy rules system.  It's not that I dislike Pathfinder.  As a matter of fact I love what Paizo has done with Pathfinder.  I have a decreased desire to handle the rules crunch as I grow older.  I would rather get to rolling the dice and having fun.  The world information for Toldara will be unified but the rules info will definitely be the lighter stuff from my end.  I plan on posting up races and classes in these simpler systems soon.  Maybe I can get my cousin to post up some Pathfinder stuff also?

Classic Fantasy Role-Playing Game (CFRPG)
I belong to the yahoo group on CFRPG.  We are currently rewriting the rule book.  I will be posting some of my stuff here on this blog.  I plan on putting up a character sheet and a full world book on Toldara also.

Selections from the Old Gaming Notebook
I have located some of my old gaming material from back in the day.  I will put up some of it here just for fun.  Maybe some of it will be expanded upon?  Should be an interesting look at old ideas.

Open Gaming Content
Any open gaming content will be clearly marked and linked to the OGL.

Product Identity
Any product identity will be clearly marked as such.,