Gaming. Going. Gone?
April 21, 2006 12:06 PM   Subscribe

Big Bang for the MegaVerse? Palladium Books, publishers of the once wildly popular Rifts roleplaying game, may be going out of business. For a while things were looking up for the company, with a promising videogame and potential Jerry Bruckheimer movie in the works. Unfortunately, the game was slated for the now largely irrelevant Nokia N-Gage system and Bruckheimer's never been given a Rifts script he liked. Owner and president Kevin Siembieda, reeling from a 7 figure betrayal from within the ranks and deep in debt after sinking thousands of dollars of his own money into the company, turns to the internet for help.
posted by JaredSeth (44 comments total)
Shame. I never played it, but it looked like they had some extremely cool stuff.
posted by Artw at 12:12 PM on April 21, 2006

I was a big fan of the Palladium Fantasy RPG myself.

If you're a current or former player, now might be a good time to pick up any of the sourcebooks you're missing, before you can't get them anymore.

Oh and I don't work for Palladium (or even know Kevin for that matter). I just think it'd be a shame if they went under.
posted by JaredSeth at 12:17 PM on April 21, 2006

After my tattooed Atlantean Undead Slayer got his own Glitter Boy, I knew this game was not long for this world. I'm surprised it made it this far!

But never count'em out. FASA's Battletech rose from the ashes under the WizKids' banner. Heck, I wouldn't be shocked if another company picked up the IP somewhere down the road.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 12:25 PM on April 21, 2006

Damned shame.

I hope they make it back into the black, unlike Iron Crown Enterprise

Holy shit. ICE is back in business?! Ah, Rulesmonster, my only true love - and to think I've given up tabletop pen&paper.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 12:26 PM on April 21, 2006

I grew up on their games. I eventually moved on to better systems, but I may have to buy this book just to make sure that future generations will get to know the joy of rolling the damage for Glitter Boy.
posted by JeremyT at 12:30 PM on April 21, 2006

We used to play Rifts in middle school. It was big, stupid fun. That's how I would describe most of their games. Hard to take a game seriously that had "Mega-Damage!" but it was easy to get a group together because it was just fun.

Kevin S. and crew always had a lot of enthusiasm for the games and it showed in the final product. I hope they pull through.
posted by selfnoise at 12:34 PM on April 21, 2006

Been a long time since I played Rifts, but the amount of hours of enjoyment we got out of the books was huge compared to the cost.

I want to help. I'm a bit touchy on buying the artwork to help out, since I'm trying to save for my upcoming baby, but I do wish I could do something.
posted by Kickstart70 at 12:35 PM on April 21, 2006

I bet a lot if people got burned by the ill fortunes of that Nokia nGage. Now if Jerry would just call me about fixing that damn script... (whoops, lapsing into fantasy world again...)
posted by nanojath at 12:42 PM on April 21, 2006

Kickstart70, I felt the same way about the I decided I'd help by finally filling in the gaps in my PFRPG sourcebook collection.

Considering I haven't actually played in years, I expect the fiancee will not be pleased when all these books start showing up.
posted by JaredSeth at 12:44 PM on April 21, 2006

I must've read the Rifts guidebook front to back at least ten times, but never had anyone to play with. +12 Sadness. :(

(To be fair, mom and sis did play HeroQuest, so my childhood didn't completely suck.)
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:47 PM on April 21, 2006

My friends and I owned a bunch of rifts books but never actually tried to play it.

posted by drezdn at 12:50 PM on April 21, 2006

We played Rifts for awhile (I was deadly serious about my Atlantean Undead Slayer. He was a Mega Damage Creature that could take a glancing Boom Cannon shot and walk away). It was fun, but the power levels were wacky-crazy. We had MDCs like myself and the Cyborg who could charge in and go toe-to-toe with almost anything. Meanwhile we had a Cyber-Knight and a Rogue Scholar who could do naught but hide behind houses and walls whilst the world blew up around them.

I remember super-long character creation followed by quick, smear'd deaths as being one of the norms of the game.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 1:10 PM on April 21, 2006

I really loved Rifts... I liked playing the aforementioned Rogue Scholar who couldn't do anything but hide behind a tree. But it was always fun. I hate to say it, but I'd love to know more about what the "betrayal" was.

I feel kind of letdown... I want to know what happened.

But the reason I stopped with Rifts was that I felt they spent way to much paper on guns and weapons--every supplement was so much gear--and not nearly enough on environment and "fluff."

My wife on the other hand, hated the character generation process, and the skill system which admittedly was a bit out of control.
posted by illovich at 1:14 PM on April 21, 2006

Rifts was a great system for titanic-scale stupid fun. In college we played a campaign set on our campus where everyone took on an exaggerated version of themselves as a character, and the NPCs were all super-powered versions of our extended circle of friends. I think by the end of it 3/4ths of the campus was infected with a parasitic nanite plague that caused greek letters to appear on your forehead, my girlfriend kept morphing into a serpent demon by accident and I was regularly melting buildings with an orbital particle cannon I controlled with my mind.

There's nothing in gaming quite like rolling damage for an orbital particle cannon.
posted by xthlc at 2:07 PM on April 21, 2006

I don't like Palladium, particularly. I've always heard that Siembieda is an ass, and unpleasant to work for, and I won't shed any tears for his crappy game system and setting. Rifts was like an avatar of what was wrong with game design in the '80s and '90s, and yes I have played it. It had its fans, and those fans are not people I would enjoy gaming with.

On the other hand, it's really bad news for the roleplaying industry if they go under. It was nice while it lasted--though hopefully indie efforts like The Forge will keep the torch alive in a saner, healthier way than companies like Palladium.
posted by graymouser at 2:11 PM on April 21, 2006

I've got fond memories of The Mechanoid Invasion, TMNT and the Palladium FRPG, but it's been years and years since I've played that system (I'm still playing face to face RPGs though).

However, I'm not so sure that even a big outflow of support is going to get Palladium back over the hump, without some serious changes in how the company is managed.

Here's an account of one person's experiences working with Palladium.
posted by ursus_comiter at 2:27 PM on April 21, 2006

I've never visited a Rifts group that wasn't entirely composed of over-the-top power gamers. Not saying that's entirely representative. Just what I've found.
posted by dreamsign at 2:36 PM on April 21, 2006

It's been years since I've picked up a Rifts book, but I do recall those wacky-crazy rules. If the rolls came out right a moon could sneak up on someone.

I don't know if that was an early flaw that was fixed or not, like I said I haven't played for years.
posted by tvjunkie at 2:44 PM on April 21, 2006

I can't say I'm sad to see Palladium go, considering how many other game systems that I like and esteem much more than Rifts have fared. Rifts did have a sort of exuberant munchkinness too it.

I find it a little hard to believe that Palladium had $1m to steal in the first place.
posted by fleacircus at 2:44 PM on April 21, 2006

I played a lot of Robotech PnP when I was a kid, though as I got older I realized G.U.R.P.S. was a far superior game system.
posted by McBain at 3:05 PM on April 21, 2006

I played Rifts back in JR high. Even though it was fun, I think I mostly played it because that's what my friends were into. Still, I liked the game and its atmosphere. As a kid growing up in St. Louis, I particularly enjoyed how the Gateway Arch was re-purposed as the gateway to a "hell" dimension. Good times.

(although on second thought, yeah, those characters really did take a long time to create)
posted by Afroblanco at 3:05 PM on April 21, 2006

Hearing that Palladium was probably going out of business put a smile on my face and a spring in my step. Their game system sucks, their fluff is juvenile, and Siembieda is a goof.

This can only be a good thing.
posted by solid-one-love at 3:16 PM on April 21, 2006

If only WOTC would get their treasury stolen the world of gaming could go back to decent games.
posted by Megafly at 3:29 PM on April 21, 2006

PS. Amongst past Palladium books, I think I actually enjoyed Ninjas and Superspies the most. Even though it was totally stupid.

Maybe BECAUSE it was totally stupid.
posted by selfnoise at 3:34 PM on April 21, 2006

I played most of the Palladium stuff at a young age when all that really mattered to me was they had the cool Robotech and Ninja Turtles licenses.
posted by McBain at 3:55 PM on April 21, 2006

Gotta go with you there selfnoise.

Man, I hated Rifts tho. Played once as a kid, never touched it again.
But the ninja turtles, et. al we're fun for fun's sake.

I wish I cared more about this. I really just don't. It's just a game company. He & his game co. wrote stuff. I bought it. End of transaction. I feel bad, but it's not like a wounded puppy on the side of the road.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:09 PM on April 21, 2006

I always despised RIFTS. Nevermind the stupidity of the megadamage idea, the core book was simply wretchedly laid out. Look for the rules on what a spellcaster does to cast a spell. Can't find them? That's because they aren't there! Same with quite a few of the core mechanics. No index, there isn't any logic to the layout of the chapters, etc. I can't believe I actually paid for that POS.

But even the gawdawful piss poor quality of the book can't detract from the utter stupidity of character creation. Player A picked a Glitter Boy template! Congrats, he gets badass powered armor capable of leveling a city with one blast! Player B picked a mind-melter template! He can do all sorts of cool stuff, but the glitter boy will squash him with no trouble at all because for some reason powered armor automatically blocks psionics. Player C picked a rogue scientist! He's basically screwed.

There is absolutely no character advancement worth talking about. While attack rolls improve with levels, to a very large extent a character is nearly as powerful at level 1 as he would be at level 10. Certainly the spellcasters and psionics don't gain much as time passes.

It always seemed to me that RIFTS was designed for munchkins who wanted to play super-powerful characters right off the bat and didn't really care about long term development.

It had some cool ideas, but the horrible quality of the core book, and the utterly insane character generation rules made it a flop. Don't blame N-Gage for Palladium's fall, blame their crappy product.
posted by sotonohito at 5:29 PM on April 21, 2006

I wrote my first two books for Palladium, more than fifteen years ago now. I don't know how things have changed but it was hands-down the best experience I've had working in the games business: Palladium was fair, did a decent job on the book (barring a couple of editing goofs), paid on the nail, and the royalty cheques kept coming precisely when they were promised. Kevin was a pleasure to work for, and later was generous with advice -- good advice -- when I was setting up my own company.

Compared to the number of RPG companies who turn out to be fly-by-nights, leaving trails of unpaid writers, artists and printers in their wake -- to say nothing of distributors stuck with unsellable stock -- Palladium is a class act.
posted by Hogshead at 6:23 PM on April 21, 2006

As a sidenote, this bit of the Help Us forum post linked to made me shiver in dread:

"The Rifts movie? Stalled. Until Jerry Bruckheimer has a script he loves, the movie can’t get the green light."

Intellectually, I'm aware that there are scripts--many scripts even--that just aren't quality enough for Jerry Bruckheimer. It's one of those uncomfortable truths that threaten to turn my bowels to water to really be confronted by, though.
posted by Drastic at 6:30 PM on April 21, 2006 [1 favorite]

As far as my childhood is concerned, this is pretty sad.

I acquired a pretty large collection of Rifts books. The settings were cool, and building ridiculous characters was also fun, but it's true, the system (for all Palladium RPGs, actually) is entirely awful. Good artwork though, and they at least made for good reading.

Also, just to flash my nerd cred, Changeling: The Dreaming is still the best roleplaying game ever.
posted by Alex404 at 6:39 PM on April 21, 2006

The crisis in question is this:

Lots of stolen artwork and other stuff.
posted by edheil at 6:45 PM on April 21, 2006

The thing I remember most about the Palladium RPGs were the sentence fragments occasionally found at the ends of paragraphs.

TMNT was pretty cool, though.
posted by the_bone at 7:29 PM on April 21, 2006

Back when I was playing rpgs, I liked the Rifts setting more than any other for super-hero games. Didn't much like K. Siembieda's writing and drawing, though, and I never liked the gaming system either.

I always got the impression that he just liked his ideas a little too much, even when those ideas nothing more than another round of character classes, monsters, and BFGs to serve the munchkin fans.

Plus, what was up with the penis lasers? Seriously, look at the artwork for the giant robots, battlesuits, etc ... more than half of 'em would of had a hard time with the "this is my rifle, this is my gun ..." ditty.
posted by moonbiter at 3:27 AM on April 22, 2006

Alex404: I'll nerd right back at'cha. How much nerd cred can there really be in a White Wolf product? *I* on the other hand have played and enjoyed Everway, which most people haven't even heard of! I own, and have played, the Aliens "Adventure Game". I've also played Tinker's Damn, which as far as I know never sold outside a few cons.

But, nerd cred to the side, I think the best engine I've ever played with is GURPS. Skill based, solid mechanics, I like GURPS.
posted by sotonohito at 3:53 AM on April 22, 2006

Hogshead - are you guys still planning any releases for SLA or has the torch been passed again?

Sotonohito - The Aliens game was based on the (actually quite good) Living Steel/Phoenix Command System. I own both of these. My geekiness beats yours; plus, I have at last count 98 3rd Ed GURPS books.

The last Palladium game I played was their Vietnam game, Recon. By god that was a long time ago...
posted by longbaugh at 4:19 AM on April 22, 2006

longbaugh: Actually, I knew the Aliens game was based on Living Steel, but I'll confess I only know that because it said so at the back of the book...

As for your geekiness beating mine, while I'll admit that's a possibility, I won't concede simply on the basis of how many books you own. That's a measure of wealth, not geekiness. The REAL question is how many obscure RPGs do you own?
posted by sotonohito at 6:55 AM on April 22, 2006

I realised shortly after posting that comment that it made me sound quite a bit of a dickhead, so I'll apologise first off sotonohito. Most of my GURPS books are 2nd hand since I am actually quite the opposite of wealthy. The only new ones I've purchased were the Transhuman Space series (simply the greatest Sci-Fi background ever IMO). As far as obscure RPGs, I can't really say since I don't know what you'd consider obscure. Some people might think that games like The Morrow Project or BTRC's Timelords are obscure. I should realistically measure my nerdhoodituditiness with the fact I wrote my own systems on a number of occasions.

The worst sign of my geekdom however is the sheer amount of books and systems I own and have read in comparison to the amount I've actually played. I have only ever been involved in 3 different PnP games; Elric!, Cyberpunk 2020 and a game of Vampire. Each of these games was frankly fucking terrible, the other players had no compunctions about cheating and just basically screwing around. I always wanted a decent game of Millennium's End but everyone wanted spells and superpowers so that never came to pass. Fucken munchkin gamers can lick my salty ones. I've GM'd a couple of times, using ME or my own systems but I am a horrific stickler for realism and most people I had the chance to run for didn't really like getting killed or crippled all the time. It's been about 10 years at least since I've actually had any chance to play or GM but I still hold out hope of finding a mature group of players one day.
posted by longbaugh at 1:19 PM on April 22, 2006

Longbaugh, I sold Hogshead Publishing to new management in early 2003 and I believe the company is now defunct -- the website hasn't been updated since late 2004. I did warn them it was a sucky time to be getting into the industry.

At the time of the sale all rights to SLA Industries passed back to its original owners, and I believe they're working with a new publisher to relaunch it in the not-distant future.

And if we're geeking out, I used to own the Original D&D boxed set, the original Metamorphosis Alpha, a first print of Bunnies and Burrows, a copy of Caryfish and Crawdads, and a copy of Alma Mater (first game to be banned from Gen Con), and I still have my Empire of the Petal Throne boxed set.
posted by Hogshead at 7:40 PM on April 22, 2006

I have definately been outnerded.

I'll still stand by Changeling being the greatest game ever though.
posted by Alex404 at 7:57 PM on April 22, 2006

Well, both of 'em outnerded me, at least RPG-wise.

However, Alex404, I can't accept any White Wolf product as the greatest game ever. They've got some pretty solid mechanics, and some good ideas, but something about WW just turns me off and I don't really know why.

GURPS remains my fave for general roleplaying due to its flexability, but I'll be the first to admit it has problems.
posted by sotonohito at 3:17 AM on April 23, 2006

I always thought Changeling was pretty and a fun read, but unplayable with my group. However, I once bought a copy as a gift for a wonderful girl who was into faerie tales, so it holds a special place in my heart.
posted by moonbiter at 5:21 AM on April 23, 2006

I used to own the Original D&D boxed set

Still have mine.

I was also out wandering on a Saturday afternoon last fall and came across an RPG collection in somebody's yard sale. Made me sad.
posted by dreamsign at 12:31 PM on April 23, 2006

Sad, and yet ... that was how I built my RPG collection to the mighty 1000+ book juggernaut that it was. Yard sales and secondhand bookstores, where you could by the things for pennies on the dollar.

Sad was when I had to sell it all ...
posted by moonbiter at 11:48 PM on April 23, 2006

I had mixed feelings about Palladium's stuff. The artwork was amazing (love the Invid Invasion stuff), and they definitely had some cool licenses, particularly Robotech. Palladium Fantasy was great for fleshing out other games like AD&D. The books were nice to read.

But the system behind it blew chunks. Percentage-based feats, SDC vs MDC, pointless skills (I look on my radar for Invid activity. Sorry, you failed your Read Sensory Instruments check. What? It's a frigging radar! Are there blips on it or not?), pointless classes (yay, I'm the only Destroid pilot in a Veritech squadron! Well I'm a Field Engineer!) and clumsy, clumsy combat made it a drag.

I remember we wrote our own rules for Robotech once which revolved around a fast combat system based on simultaneous dice rolling and diceless feats. It emphasised cartoon physics, cool moves and picking up miniaturised Zentraedi hotties over tracking initiative, ammo and MDC.

As for RIFTS, it just looked like KS he went out and stole every other sci-fi and fantasy license he could find and threw them into a single book. Cool - I'm the Termina...I mean, a Cyborg.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 11:24 PM on April 25, 2006

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