101 Days of Rifts: Palladium and OSR

I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Hey Herb, didn’t you start this blog because of an interest in old school game and especially old school D&D. Why are you focusing on Rifts, a cheesy 90s game that everyone knows is junk.”. Okay, maybe you aren’t doing the judging but are wondering why Rifts instead Gamma World or Runequest or Starships & Spacemen or anything by Sine Nomine given how much you’re into their games. I contend that Rifts and Palladium games in general are old school. In fact, I’ll lay down my marker and say Palladium is the oldest old school company still in existence and is ignored by the OSR to the OSR’s loss. Actually, ignored is probably too strong a word. I think the OSR and the Palladium fan base should naturally overlap and just never have.

The Palladium system, as I have pointed out before, is a variation of OD&D. As such, it uses Gygaxian building blocks. Palladium has used this to advertise all their games as compatable. That’s a bit of a stretch but it does mean Palladium supplements are great supplements for an old school game. A couple of year’s ago when I tried to do a month of posts using Jeff Rients’s Alchemical Formula I picked Palladium’s Mystic China as a supplement. I think any OSR oriented person would do well to add a Palladium book or two to their collection. Picking the right one, such as Rifts England or Splicers can add a strange spice to your game not dissimilar to early Arduin in feel.

Since the late nineties Palladium has produced a quarterly house magazine called The Rifter. To give an idea of the contents here is the table of contents for issue #4, the first I bought (for its Nightbane content):

  1. From Behind the Desk (editorial)
  2. Palladium New, Info, & Coming Attractions
  3. Palladium Fantasy RPG Hook, Line, & Sinkers for the Western Empire (scenario outlines)
  4. Knight of the Dinner Table (yes, the comic)
  5. Palladium Fantasy RPG Long, Strange Trips (G.M. tips & ideas)
  6. Palladium Fantasy RPG Death is Not Always Final (monsters)
  7. Nightbane RGP The Tribes of the Moon (character races and classes)
  8. Rifts A.R.C.I.E. Three vs. The World (adventure)
  9. Rifts The Evolved (monsters)
  10. The Siege Against Tolkeen (gamer fiction)
  11. Hammer of the Forge (gamer fiction)
  12. Optional Character Sheet

Pretty much looks like an issue of Fight On to me except for the fiction.

Finally, the Palladium Forums at the company’s website spend a lot of time on either houseruling things (Palladium is like OD&D, every game is unique) or doing new material. There is less of a web presence and much of it has been static for a decade but it is still there.

Palladium’s heritage and fan base are very much OSR types. While they might put a bit more emphasis on cannon, especially the Rifts section, for game worlds with as many books there is a smaller cannon police feel. I think if you’re into the OSR mindset Palladium games are a great fit.

9 thoughts on “101 Days of Rifts: Palladium and OSR

  1. You are absolutely 100% correct. I would like to see more Palladium and OSR overlap myself. The original Palladium (Fantasy) Role-Playing Game is like an alternate universe version of a fantasy game we all know; I don’t mean that in a disrespectful or demeaning manner. They are both different approaches to many of the same areas of rules but they are both old school in nature. I have some Palladium material on my blog but I need to get busy on more…

    • I love the original Palladium Fantasy RPG. Some of the ideas like the Tristram Chronicles and the Elf-Dwarf war aren’t 100% original but are still inspirational because they are well done. Others, such as Wolfen Empire, are much, much better than their non-Palladium counterparts in gaming.

      Once you have read the Wolfen material the idea of orc hordes as the big threat to your fantasy world just won’t work.

      • The original is my favorite fantasy game of all time! The world and information related to it are much more interesting than the vanilla fantasy settings from most games; it always felt more epic to me also. You are right about the Wolfen Empire being a much more formidable and worthy enemy than the standard of orcs.

  2. Palladium is the system i most want to like but haveconly played a few times. I own a bunch of books and enjoy reading them but i only ever use them to mine for ideas in other system games. No one will invest the time to even create a rifts/palladium character. There is just too much negativity surrounding the game, which is a shame.

    • Well, Mdock, I’m hoping to do a little bit to reduce the negativity. Palladium has fans and I’m finding as I research this series more than I thought. Tomorrow will have links to some Palladium resources including a series of videos on YouTube and a podcast.

      I’m hoping a little exposure and work will get me a group and a game here in Atlanta. Maybe you can do the same thing there if you find new players.

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