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Quality in Rifts: Remembering Pete Overton

Quality In Rifts: Manifesto

By Pete Overton

Last Updated: 03/01/2001

One of the most often asked questions I ever get is why I run a Rifts page when I so clearly dislike Rifts. The answer to that, of course, is to turn it around and say that I run this page because I *do* like Rifts, at least its core spirit, if not its execution. So I thought I'd put up this page to catalogue the various comments I have made about Palladium and Rifts in the past. Some of the early ones (near the top) were pretty acidic, back when I was really more bitter, but I've come to a clearer understanding in the past year or so. However, these posts (made to my own list, e-mail and the Palladium mailing list) tend to summarize up my more strategic feelings over the course of this page's existence. The more recent ones are at the bottom, written within the last month on the PML, whereas a lot of the early ones were written on the QiR list, and the latter tend to show a greater level of disgust than the former.

Anyways, agree or disagree, it's sort of irrelevant, because like any good manifesto, this is only a clarion call for my own feelings. I've been in debates and arguments with people over the course of two years over these sentiments and they aren't going to change anytime soon, don't worry about that. Whenever possible, I left in the context (quoted text) that leads into whatever whining I do. Again, the earlier ones were much more acidic and I apologize for some of those, although the points made warrant their inclusion. I've also annotated a lot of it just because I felt like it. More the early stuff so I can cover my ass in some of my more idiotic statements.

Anyways, a Manifesto. :)


I like the friends and the links I've made to the online Rifts community and that's the main reason why I keep trying with the page, but in practical terms, I'm starting to wonder if I should just call a spade a spade and let things be. I don't know. After working part of today, I suppose it's just that talking, but it's deeper than that, as well. I've been reading comparatively excellent RPGs (primarily Delta Green and Heavy Gear) and I'm starting to question the point of bothering to keep up with Rifts at all, especially at this point of things where the world is more or less sketched and the finer details can be filled in by us GMs without necessarily further micromanaged support. But it's hard to shell out $20 for a book that is mostly crap. Given the choice of living with an extra $20 or buying a Rifts books, these days I tend to live with the extra money. Rifts is often the loser of prioritizing.

This isn't to say that I'm ditching Rifts, quite the contrary, I still adore the world. I still have lots to add to the site, of course. Nothing so panoramic as heretoforth promised, but flavour things, interesting locations and groups, that sort of thing. The occasional essay here and there as I drag material from other games into Rifts. I suppose it hurts the cause a lot that I don't play Rifts anymore, which seems to be a requirement for maintaining a website on it. :) I'm certainly not shutting down the website or anything, but my interests outweigh my current desire to keep up with the website.

As for the future, who knows? I don't want to go the way of a few other websites I can mention and simply leave it up and atrophy off into nothingness. I feel I still have SOME things to add, just not much in the way of titanic changes. I leave that to you folks with more dedication and time than I have. But I don't want to leave the world of Rifts behind, for it is still very dear to me and I have tons of ideas for it. I don't know. We'll see what we see, I suppose.

Anyways. That's what's going on with that. A lot of behind the scenes stuff that you don't get access to and I haven't really had the time to get into. I've not forgotten the page, it just is too low a priority at the moment to worry about explicitly. I don't know. I'm getting too old for this, I guess. ::smirk::

But, we'll see what we see. I don't know.


Note: Obviously this isn't the case now, but a lot of these sentiments still remain bundled with the Rifts Apathy that gets discussed below. I still get those moods from time to time which is why the webpage goes un-updated for awhile, but I've recommitted to buying all the Rifts books if only to review them and warn you off of them. I call this "taking one for the team." Hee hee.


>stop for a moment's silence while we commemorate all the AD&D settings that
>have been totally screwed over, or the revision to the World of Darkness,
>and give thanks that it hasn't happened to Rifts.

The revisions to the WoD have made it better because they have a persistent world, which is to say, it changes. White Wolf has learned from its earlier heavyhandedness with metaplot, instead releasing specific books which detail large parts of their metaplots. You can ignore it if you don't like it, and if you want to use it, it's there. Trinity went one step further and released the entire metaplot online, so that STs could decide what to use and what not to use. This opened them up to attack by those who didn't like the metaplot, but likewise, they didn't have to use any of it. I got into an argument over on the Mage list about this recently, this bizarre notion that if it is published, it MUST be used. I know a guy who runs a Rifts game which brought in the SDF-1 and kicked ass. No where is that published, trust me. Use what you want, dump the rest. That's the whole point of these. If your game diverges so much from published data that it's useles to you, stop buying the game. No one wrote you a contract in blood saying you must buy each supplement.

White Wolf has a good handle on it now, because you could play the "smaller scale" infinitely and never notice any sort of metaplot, or you could play a "large scale" game with all metaplot, or somewhere in the middle. With Rifts, you are perpetually stuck to that "small scale" thinking because the PCs aren't really ever supposed to win -- you're meant to run around and have early-80s mini-dungeon crawl-type adventures and once in awhile topple a small kingdom. The CS is there not logically but just as an enemy, filler bad guys (read the canon CS being evil essay again and it's clear what they have in mind for the CS). There's no chance for epic adventure because the game simply doesn't have the framework for it. You're supposed to play wandering adventurers, not ambassadors for the CS, or politicians. You're not supposed to ask about culture because your black-and-white morals are clear on it. Sadly, it doesn't even make a good TACTICAL game either because of their weird combat rules. I mean, Rifts never *changes* at all if you look at all the books. I'll bet when the Tolkeen War books are released, they end in a stalemate. Mark my words.

Heavy Gear, which I play up a lot too, is good this way because they split their game into RPG and Tactical elements. If you want to use both, you can, if you want to use one or the other, you can. This would have been optimal for Rifts, I think, but instead of revitalizing Palladium's system, they used the same old thing, thinking, "If it's not broken, don't fix it." I'm willing to bet good money that Siembieda still gets together with his original gamer buddies (the ones he hasn't alienated) and plays "save the princess" plots or "defeat the evil monster" plots. To borrow from 1984, he has about six plots, but he swaps them around a little. This is evident also in the earlier Rifts stuff where a lot of the scenarios and settings are the same, except with different names and "cultures" slapped on them.

The guy has run his company for three decades now, and it shows. Look what happened to Happy Gygax when he tried to remain Head Hauncho, or Stan Lee. Perpetual revitalization is what is needed for a clearly persistent RPG, which is why I take long breaks from my page, to recharge the batteries. White Wolf changes its developers like candy, but the benefit is that it's a perpetual world. It throws off the longtime players with the changes sometimes, but the dynamicism makes up for it. Wraith 1st Edition, for instance, was good but VERY esoteric and enigmatic, but when Rich Dansky came and did Wraith 2nd, it became a vibrant and alive (ha ha) game, considered top among the industry (although it is dead now, of course, since its sales never recovered from Wraith 1st and as we all know, people don't like quality ;). Siembieda has become not only a static, out-of-touch guy but also a charactiture of the stereotypical early-80s gamer, one he can't shake because of his over-insistence on rarely changing.

Don't get me wrong, I don't want Rifts to yo-yo about like some of White Wolf's earlier stuff. Another game that I loved that died early was the Taladas boxed set for Dragonlance. It had virtually no statistics, but rather the most detailed and in-depth survey of the continent, all culture, customs, and such. A smaller book contained the character kits and game mechanics, but it paled to the big overview of the land. Thus did this die too, of course. But it was from that where I got my initial ideas and expectations about Rifts Worldbooks. Back when I was naive and still expected world data in the books. Eesh.

So, all this ranting. I should be constructive. What would I do if Siembieda came running up to me and handed me the Rifts line all of a sudden? I'm so glad you asked.

* Rifts 2nd Edition would emerge very quickly. This would be mostly streamlined mechanics, with a decent survey of North America and a briefer look at the rest of the world. A handful of pages on what Rifts is truly about. History. PROOFREADING. I'd hire you all as my editing team and make you read it all 100 times.
* A new Worldbook line, 2nd Edition. Fixing up the gaping holes of the first worldbooks. 90% of it would be atmosphere, culture, customs, personalities, plot hooks, and so forth. The other 10% would include custom mechanics to that part of the world, a brief survey of basic gear and other such stuff.
* A Techbook line. The first one would follow Heavy Gear's lead and discuss the general technological level of Rifts Earth and various tech levels above it. COMPLETE rules for creating new weapons, armor, power armor, and everything else, as well as a lot of common sense interjections on not building the SDF-5 (although it's your game, if you want to!) Rules for laws about technology, permits and stuff like that. The remaining techbooks would cover parallel regions of the planet, delving more deeply into regional technology (ie. toybooks).
* Plotbooks. Very rare, they'd update the setting periodically with Global Update-style writings. Written such that you could ignore them or integrate them as you wanted.
* A separate Magic Sourcebook, but a mostly complete edition. Lists the history of magic and the multiverse, different magic systems, magic classes and a fairly complete spell list as well as who can access what types of spells. Would be more AD&Dish in structure, yes, but would be laced with deep background for the schools of magic and objectives and such. Essays on how to play good mages. Outer Entities would be covered too. Regional mages would be covered in their respective worldbooks as cultural.
* A separate Psychic Sourcebook. Same as the Magic book but concentrating on psychics. Structured more in a combination of Trinity/Psionic's Handbook style, with psi-orders, though not literally formalized. Psychic dangers listed, and sosuch. There's no real thing as a "regional" psychic, only how they live and their culture within that region, so this would be definitive except for cultural details from the Worldbooks.

This would not only bring a new sense of organization to things, but also provide a wealth of detail. The downside is that it would be more books to buy. A worldbook and its companion techbook. However, given the policy currently of producing two books per setting, it wouldn't be too bad, and you'd get a lot more bang for your buck. I'd also lose a big whack of the munchkin crowd, who sadly buy a lot of books, though I suppose they could run a purely techbook-based game. My version of Rifts would go under pretty quickly, I imagine, but it'd be a hell of a good version while it lasted. :) But I'm sure you see what it is that I'm up to with it.

Trinity does a good job with this sort of thing, because they tend to release a setting sourcebook which combined within it has a Psi-Order sourcebook too. Rifts has too many character classes to do this practically, but discussion the regionalism would help a lot. Heavy Gear is perhaps the best model because they do some of what I outline as far as dividing their line into various "theme book lines" which works really well.

So, I don't know, anyways. Just ranting. :)


Note: Curiously enough, that remains my opinion to this day and has stood the test of time well. White Wolf released a Revised Vampire and Werewolf that were both *exceptional* products, although their Mage Revised was panned a heck of a lot, although I didn't mind it too much. But White Wolf is positively dynamic compared to Palladium, which is the point of that whole rant.


Incidentally, troops, I'm still fighting Rifts Apathy. I have FQ in my hands as I write this, but ever since Splynn, I have been totally unable to read any of the Rifts books. I think it's a sort of deep ennui about reading the same thing over and over and over again. My brother has been reading the newer stuff and I think I'll get his opinions on the books to post until such time as I can get into it. It's terribly demoralizing and with my financial situation changing slightly, the day may come soon when I eliminate my Rifts purchasing totally. I don't know. Anyways.

Having merely skimmed FQ, I have been profoundly disappointed. Granted I haven't read much of the background per se, but it's just the same old robots given a new weapons compliment and shined up real purty. As long as Siembieda has his finger on the veto button, Rifts will suck, period. Which is a shame. My brother and I were discussing last night on how Rifts would have been had it been released by another company. As long as the Rifter exists, Siembieda can point to it and say, "Oh, look, we're responsive to our fans!" and then continue to put out the same old shit. Any sparks of true innovation and creativity are swiftly beaten down and usually thrown out the door. The process of freelancers writing material and having most of it thrown out the window by Kevin and "rewritten" by him is so disgustingly common now as to be an industry archetype.

Maybe I'm just getting more picky in my old age, I admit. I'm certainly getting more picky in my purchases as the financial pool dwindles more. With many new games coming out that suit me more or that are much better, most of my older interests are fading. These days my game interests lie in other directions, like Heavy Gear, Unknown Armies, Aberrant, Hunter, Vampire. Lush settings, little mechanics (save Heavy Gear, which manages to balance both strangely). I have tried for so long and so hard to "equalize" the Palladium shit and my vision of Rifts, but with each book they release, the shit piles up higher and higher and I get more and more disassociated with it. Each time they put out a new piece of shit book, my mind rebels at having to rewrite the whole thing and justify whatever Siembieda has felt like slipping in that makes no human sense ever. A new Rifts book doesn't inspire curiousity and interest in me, but more of a sickening loathing, a sort of resigned sigh of hopelessness in the face of unchanging idiocy.

I still like the core of it all. There are some good ideas in the basic setting, the sort of humanity on the brink idea, the reawakening of magic through humanity's most grave of errors, and such. But with each successive supplement, the deadweight of pure shit was added until everything good was buried deep under the sheer munchkinism and endless weapon and armor statistics. It's gotten to the point where I (and we as a whole for that matter) can almost predict to the very content the actual contents of a new Rifts book. The system is ancient and useless for such an epic-scale game, and overburdened with endless overspecialization of skills and creations of entire new weapons and armors when varying the old ones would do, especially for a technologically-recovering society. No real thought is put to the culture of the people involved, they just get pooh-poohed as "deluded" by their "evil" government. The CS gets no benefit of the doubt, and frankly has acted no more evil than any survivalist government in history.

This is all old news for us here, though. I just feel like yelling about it again because it's so terribly frustrating.

Lately I have been thinking of doing a Neo-Rifts setting. It's a project too grand for my current time limitations, but it has long been my desire to recreate the original setting ideas, the original players of the Rifts world (and note I said *world*) and write up a decent amount of information on each and then just totally ignore the rest of Rifts canon. Some plot might parallel canon, but likely it would be such a unique world as to qualify as a dimension book officially. :P But it would be a chance to cut out the deadweight, create a consistent and logical history (now that most of the world has been revealed) and establish diplomacy between empires where applicable (which is something I've been hounding them for since the start). Select OCCs would survive while the redundant and stupid ones would be excised. A fresh look at an old world, so to speak. But as I said, this is far beyond my time reaches, even though it could incorporate a lot of what's on my webpage at the moment (and a lot of what's on many of yours, as well). It's sort of a grand project I have in mind for the future when I get some time, to return and reconstruct that original wonder of the Rifts core book (but not limited to that). Sort of a Grand Unification Theory for all the shit of Rifts, in essence.

Anyways, I'm hungry, I haven't had breakfast yet, but I just felt like yelling about this. No reason. :P


Note: Boy, I was really bitter that day, huh. :) That was the first mention of the Neo-Rifts idea, which still exists to this day and will be moved upon shortly. As you can tell, that was just after I bought Free Quebec, which some of us thought might actually be pretty good since Monsieur DesRochers is a known Rifts Net presence and a good guy. So we were pretty dejected when it came out to be a slightly modified toybook. This was also the first time I articulates my Rifter dislike, which I will discuss more at the end of this file.


>Take STAR WARS, we all love it, we all grew up with it, but do you know how
>much conflicting information and detail on story and plot line there is in
>it. Thats why many books will say "Original Lucas film source" or the other
>stuff, "licensed stuff that may or may not agree with George Lucas' vision
>of the SW universe." Its a great big Universe and we're all really puny.

That's a little different. Lucas contracted out stuff in his later years, which led to a lot of weird stuff. Siembieda maintains total dictatorial control, complete with veto power, over Palladium as a whole and Rifts specifically. And heck, really, when was the last time a Rifts book was on time anyways? It's because Siembieda is maintaining a direct controlling interest in Rifts, and it shows through a lot. If Kevin actually subcontracted out books to other independent authors and didn't practically rewrite the finished manuscript, Rifts might be a very diverse and rewarding roleplaying experience. However, each Rifts book has a very obvious "SIEMBIEDA" stamp on it and reads like it too. Basically, the fact is that Mr. Kevin Siembieda is directly responsible for everything that emerges in Rifts, because he has his finger over the BIG BUTTON as far as final release goes. Ponder that.

As I've said before, I don't claim that Palladium is the only game to have bad editing and consistency. But it's a Rifts list and thus do I center on that, and because it's got such potential that is beaten down more with each book released. Ask me about White Wolf's infamous pg.xx's or misplaced paragraphs or what have you. But even that place is run more like a modern business and thus no one person is immediately responsible like it is in Siembieda's case.

Of course, the reason why none of this ever emerges is because Palladium makes money. Of course it does. Mindless hordes of munchkins eat up every book. Quick, fast, cheap, right? Notice how quality doesn't enter into that motto. :P By recycling the same tired system and endless skill lists, they save much time and effort that would otherwise require creative and original thinking.

If you want a good chuckle, pick up Macross II (now the license is lost to Palladium mind you) and read the "section" on the culture of 2090. "Oh, it's not much different than the 1990s. Rock music exists, people fall in love, etc." That's about the whole section. Really. This is where I have a problem. I'm even willing to admit the truth about Kevin not being untalented necessarily, but BURNED OUT. After three decades of being in the RPG business at the same place handling each and every product. I mean, no wonder it's all the same.

We go through solutions to their problems all of the time. But it's unlikely that Palladium will hire a consistency consultant, or even another line editor dedicated to quality control. Funny how movies have consistency consultants, but Palladium does not. Dream Pod 9 has several of them and wow, imagine, nothing contradicts. :)


Note: This was on one of my more anti-Siembieda days. I don't tend to personalize it quite that much anymore because I can separate him the guy from his product. However, I still think he keeps a pretty tight control over Rifts. Check the spines of most of the books. It's an interesting view, even more so since the early other writer he used, C.J. Carella, is now gone. Hmm.


>to all of you who have just joined this list please beware that you do no
>fall into the trap of the people who use this forum! rifts drew you all to
>it as well as the other palladium games(with the notable exception of the
>original viet nam game which supports your views but i know you do not play!)

Actually, I was and am still a big fan of TMNT (although as you might guess, my TMNT games were not laugh-riots by any means and were slanted more towards mutant/people interaction and never even touched the After the Bomb stuff). Originally, I liked Palladium FRPG but for the same reasons that Rifts later demoralized me, I dropped out of PFRPG and stayed with AD&D instead (yeah, there's my dirty little secret out now :). Other than that, I don't touch Palladium RPGs. Why bother? They're all basically the same system, just the backgrounds are changed a little. ;P Palladium is more universal than GURPS is, except that Palladium is GURPS done really badly.

>but, instead of just playing and making a suggestion to the makers
>every once in a while you bitch constantly!

If I thought for a moment that Siembieda (Kevin or Maryann) would actually listen, I would happily submit my material to them. However, a quick glance at some of the recent World Books shows what happens when Kevin gets manuscripts. He butchers them for what he considers good ideas and then adds in the rest. No thanks. I love the Rifts setting, but Siembieda's veto-power combined with his archaic pre-1980s view of the RPG industry and general gaming (ie. there is only black and white, girls are all comic-book pretty, women exist on the planet that could possibly fit into a Glitter Girl, etc.) is what keeps Rifts back. The whole point of Rifts is tolerance and diversity and yet Palladium puts out the same thing each and every book. Tolerance and diversity in technology only, I suppose. Sort of ironic really.

>i can say that if you do not like the system then to change it to meet
>your needs definately necessary but, if you hate it sooooo much why do
>you still buy books? why do you still continue with the palladium
>storyline? you obviously know better than the creators what rifts should be!

This was explained in the other letter. But as I said, it's the fact that we *do* something about it that separates us from the gimps out there who do nothing but complain and then keep playing anyways.

>most of the monsters that exsist in rifts(you would defend them by saying
>that they come form an alien demension and so are different from our laws
>but would readily apply your 20th century science to the coalition n.g.
>and all others!)

We actually agree here, I don't think most of the deebs are at all viable or made with any consistency (except bad consistency). Most are structured around one specific type and are all a stereotyped bloc. This is sort of akin to taking a white Catholic factory worker and using it as the RCC for humans on an alien world. There isn't enough background information usually to even be able to ATTEMPT to salvage or deconstruct them, much less fix them. The whole RCC/OCC debate is a whole other topic.

>those of you who believe you are performing
>some great service by making your own rules to rifts and your own rifts game
>need to remember that rolemaster has games just like rifts with all the
>picky rule stuff you want(they even recomend that you not use all of thier
>rules to add to the pleasure of playing the game!) and that you don't need
>rifts or palladium books stuff to play a good rpg. you are not the creators
>of rifts and you did not make the rules to rifts. you were not the
>visionaries or the dreamers that made palladium books.

I don't even particularly care about the system even. That's just a symptom and an example of Palladium's inefficiency and inability to change with the times. I care about the fact that Rifts is, for all intents and purposes, a tactical game. You get a character, arm him up and go KICK ASS, get better stuff, kick more powerful ass, repeat. Canonly speaking, this is how it goes. This is called a tactical game, and is a throwback to Battletech and such and is fine if you like it but personally I got Rifts for the roleplaying. If it was marketed as a tactical game, then I wouldn't even be likely playing Rifts at all, but they call it a roleplaying game still, so naturally I come looking for actual roleplaying. My mistake. But I like the setting, so I will make it in my own image.

I never claimed to be the creator of Rifts. I've said repeatedly that the core rulebook was excellent on its own merits. It's everything else that came after it, all that deadweight, that screwed it up. If I was the creator of Rifts, as I've said before, it would have turned out much more streamlined and likely have sunk because it would have been too good for the masses, dying the death that many excellent RPGs have because they didn't turn a buck. But I certainly credit Palladium and Kevin Siembieda for the idea of Rifts, and even the first few books were interesting, but after that, they went crazy.

>but, you choose instead to pretend that you are important and
>are somehow more intitled to decide the rules of rifts.

I don't pretend to be important. There are some things I don't like about Rifts. I made some changes. I posted some of these changes online. I found others who made changes like me. I made a list for us to hang out on and exchange changes. That's all. You're reading a little too much into this. The list has some 50-odd members or so, most of whom lurk. We are hardly stealing any business from Palladium or creating a whole Palladium civil war or anything like that.


Note: This was in response to one of the few pieces of mail the QiR list ever received. I was encouraged to see it actually because I was getting worried about an utter lack of any hate mail over two years of having the page up. I still don't get much, darn it. This explains quite clearly why the page exists and how we don't think we are superior to Palladium, but rather can help them a lot. We aren't anti-Palladium, we're pro-Rifts. We don't try to take down Rifts, but rather raise consciousness that it can be done in another way, one we think is a more enriching experience, one that happens to run contrary to the published books. That's all. We don't claim credit for the creation of Rifts or anything. Sheesh.


The question of why we in the greater sense and thus I in the specific sense (since I speak only for myself) maintain an interest in Rifts has been asked before, and will be asked again, so here do I quote from my one and only hate mail ever received which asked the same question (albeit much more rudely):

Obviously I like Rifts, even if I dislike Palladium itself. If I didn't like it, I wouldn't be trying so hard to save it and prove it a viable and workable game with a lot of effort. In any given Palladium book, there are good ideas buried in them that really want to get out, but are limited by Palladium. I really like Rifts, as a setting. I think it has a lot of potential. I just think Palladium dropped the ball and dropped it HARD in regards to the setting. However, rather than just sit and bitch about it, as would be easier to do, we instead focus on how to make it better and more realistic. That's why the page is there, for those people who feel like we do that Rifts could be an AMAZING game if only they put some thought into things.

I give credit where it is due -- I have said many times that books like Japan, Coalition War Campaign, Russia, and the like are quite well done (especially Japan, barring the run on ninjas of course). When they do something well, I'm the first to point it out. However, they do things badly more often than they do it well. Part of my continuing to buy the line is to stay informed on what Palladium is doing with it, and also as part of trying to fix it, I need to know what they are doing wrong. Likewise, buying the books gives me a moral justification for "correcting" them because by putting down money for them, I have paid for the right to give my opinion. This is as opposed to those who bitch and bitch about games they don't even own. This is sort of like not voting and then complaining about the government. I always vote. :P

This is the difference, too, because we don't sit around and just bitch about how much it sucks. That would just be idiotic and immature. What we do is strive to *change* what we don't like and explain why it needs changing, and we've come together to share our collective changes, thus birthing Quality in Rifts. Our complaints are neither unfair nor novel by any means. We are a community who exchange similar notions of what Rifts should be. The flipside of that argument is that if you don't like what you read on my webpage or the list, you don't have to read it. :)

Actually, for the record, I do point out the problems in White Wolf all the time, but curiously enough, the webpage is called "Quality in Rifts" not "Quality in Vampire." :)


Note: This was a reply I wrote to my very first hate mail. I'm surprised I got one because the munchkins usually can't get through all the text on my page. :) This was the first time I sort of tried to explain the philosophy behind the page. It was posted as a followup to the previous entry on the QiR list.


>You know Pete, I have to agree with you. Although I do
>very much like the palladium system, you are absolutely
>right about the recycling part, funny, a kind of
>epiphany struck me just now how most books rely greatly
>on the "toys", Mecha, weapons, RCCs and OCCs and a
>chopped up story line per say.

The core system is old. It's not necessarily bad, but it needs an update. They wouldn't even have to change *much*. Small things like adding Perception in Nightbane and maybe streamlining combat and such would be all it would take. It could still be compatible with most of the rest of their stuff with a minor amount of work, and they could already release a Conversion Book to cover the changes. Personally, I'd rather see it with a new system suited to its high-technology combat style, but that's just me.

>BTW, just for curiosity sake, do you have any kind
>of connection to or with Kevin, having seen his
>business practices? Now I dont want to argue what
>you said earlier, but I find myself wondering how
>you have come to know so much of Kevin himself.

::smile:: I'm people who knows people, rest assured. :)

Hard though it may be to believe, I give him a lot of credit for a lot of what he did. While I personally never really got into it, challenging AD&D took a lot of balls, and in those halcyon early days of Palladium it was fresh and had some great ideas. But they never really changed with the times. Read an old Robotech book and compare it to Free Quebec and you'll see that it's more or less identical in both layout and content. This, you may say, is a hallmark of consistency, though! Usually I would agree, but over the span of 20-odd years, the company has never adapted. Why does it still work? Because even though they never changed, their target audience was never depleted.

What I mean is, they have *always* aimed more or less at teen boys. Most outgrew Palladium and moved on to other games or totally outgrew RPGs, but there were always new teen boys. The genius of Palladium is that it *looks* cool to teen boys and serves their mentality well (note that I don't want to sterotype any teen boys on the list or in general, but I'm talking early teens mostly). Thus while they rarely have anyone who has been with them for a long time, they have *a lot* of people who are with them through some years, and more to follow. Show a copy of Robotech to some RPG kid today and he's likely love it despite never really knowing what the hell Robotech is; the same will be true of Rifts in 20 years. It looks cool, but it's because it is aimed for a specific demographic.

Now, we here obviously try to broaden and break that demographic targeting. We can afford to be nitpicky and bitchy because we aren't making any money from this, nor do we intend to. Things like Delta Green that are almost exactly what we all want barely makes money because the majority audience doesn't like it, and the RPG industry is run mostly by popular opinion (this is both aided and hindered by developers and authors on mailing lists now -- you get to give direct feedback, but usually they only hear the negative feedback). I understand that Palladium is a company and despite Kevin's ideals in his head, he is out to make money to survive and keep his family comfortable. I would like to think that in the same circumstance, I could do my best work and release it regardless, but artistic integrity (if that exists) is necessarily secondary to the buck. They aren't paying you for your best work necessarily, they are paying for what will sell.

However, I think the financial base of Palladium would allow more innovation in Rifts, and seeing that a creative Rifts (if it was developed) sells, they might begin to alter their thinking and change and adapt. The sad part is that the game could be released and *not lose its audience at all.* You could make separate toybooks for the munchkins and they could skip over the background books and vica versa. But Palladium won't deviate from its book release style, and thus won't deviate from much of anything.


Note: This was the first time I explained that I had nothing against Kevin the Guy, but only Kevin the Palladium CEO. :) People were confused when I first posted this because of some of my prior ranting against Siembieda himself, but I have come to mellow about things and realize it's not Kevin that is the enemy, but his product. I'm careful to make that distinction these days, because as I said, if for no other reason than the fact that he forged an RPG company out of blood, sweat and determination. I just rail against the fact that the RPG company he created went on to barely change in 20+ years. It was also the first time when I admitted that our version of Rifts probably wouldn't make the same money that Palladium's does, although I'd like to think that ours would keep us going and make a little money. :)


>Maybe, but there's probably going to be less of them in the future. IMO,
>it's not so much 'there'll always be some' as 'will there be enough?' I'm
>not convinced there'll be enough, myself. Hasn't the RPG pen & paper
>industry basically taken a big nose dive the last couple years? I haven't
>really been paying attention to it, but that's my overall impression.

And yet Palladium survives.

Rifts as a line won't go on forever; it will slow down to a steady few books a year eventually. But Palladium will milk Nightbane for all its worth (something I am told it actually not too bad but I won't touch it), and the Next Great Thing from them will appear within two years, likely fuelled by our very favourite good old system, likely something to capitalize on the current generation of kiddies.

So-called "advanced" games are a dying breed, not the simple ones. White Wolf is on the brink of hubris so large as to eclipse TSR during its pre-WotC days. Many of its "lesser" lines are moved to the ArtHaus label, which basically means "as long as a book makes money, you can make another one." Dream Pod 9 caters to a specific crowd, neither a breakout success nor a failure, but technical and specific enough to scare off the masses. Call of Cthulhu is slowly dying despite protests otherwise, the only thing keeping it afloat being its core fans (who incidentally will start to die off soon).

All over the "simple" games are ruling the day. Three examples for you offhand. The obvious one being Palladium, who have never changed for all practical purposes, but varied the cloakings of its games, and manages to thrive. AD&D has existed since time immemorial and while they've incarnated a few versions, it remains a simple staple for the beginner. GURPS, by Steve Jackson Games, takes the unique tactic of offering successfully what Palladium tried to do, one system with many setting books; one set of rules with infinite variations, none more complex than those found in the original set.

These three examples have the same basic things in common; very basic settings, lots of toys, interchangeability. The setting only gets as complex as you decide. As opposed to White Wolf where the dreaded World of Darkness is so complex as to be nearly incomprehensible sometimes (especially Vampire which encourages damned creatures to enter political structures further damning themselves and ultimately self-destructing or abandoning their humanity).

A lot of the new games emerging are based on simple systems. The SAGA system, White Wolf's tabletop five-star system and its LARP rock, paper and scissors (which is absurd but effective in its context), Big Eyes-Small Mouth's generic categories, and so forth. Complex isn't dead -- it never really became alive. It lifted its head for awhile with such opus achievements as Talislanta (NO ELVES), Earthdawn, Pendragon and such, but never really got anywhere. People don't want complex. We're the marketing exception, not the rule, I'm afraid.

>Personally I think online video games are going to take a large chunk of the
>entertainment dollars, (big time IMO) once more competitive games get cheap
>online connectibility.

It will die down as well. Believe me, as a veteran UO player, that industry still has real problems. Even after they iron them all out, people will lament that "real person" connection. It's sort of the same reason that people will pick up the phone instead of an e-mail sometimes. Or just get away from the 'puter altogether. The whole online industry is cruising for a self destruct, since if you've seen the dot-com implosions of late, you'll realize that if they don't generate money, they won't survive, and lots of them aren't generating any money. Amazon, ebay, and the like, they too are more exceptions than the rule. Most major online companies staked their territory out early and held onto it tightly. Yes, you could quote exceptions, but that's what they are. :)

Anyways, you can't throw dice at the screen. ;)

>Maybe, but if that's the case, I'd be predicting some slimming down on the
>number of books and products in the future. I think the bulk of Palladium's
>customer base, or at least a fairly good chunk, is going to go elsewhere in
>a short time. Depending on if the SoT series manages to keep some people
>around long enough, probably, as far as Rifts goes.

I don't think so. Palladium is giving them what they want. They will continue to give the market what it wants. As I said, we are the exceptions, not the rule. For each site like ours on the Web, there are a hundred more that represent everything we loathe about Rifts. Basic economics.

My official prediction is that Palladium will reach 2005 at least. It will ride out any late-game downturns like it did back in the early 90s. It will release a new game with the same system in two or three years. Probably based on some comic book somewhere that they are currently negotiating over. Feh.


Note: This was in response to a message about the demise of Palladium, which I disagreed with for obvious reasons. Note that in a business context, I don't think what Palladium does is evil or anything -- it's economics. But as a consumer, I can get angry about it. :)


>i'm sure this has bugged other on this list, but i've
>grappling with this dilemma for at least a week now; what is
>it about rifts that i actually like? i mean, the cosmologies
>fractured, the world is at times totally illogical, and i
>hate the rules to the point where i refuse to use them. so
>why do i keep using the setting?

Back when the game was first being marketed, I was still reading Dragon magazine. I saw the first ads for Rifts in there, and it was the master spider-legged bot from Sourcebook 1 lording over his army of robots with numbers tattooed on their foreheads. I thought, wow, this looks amazing, warring against robot legions. And then I got the main book. I read it cover to cover in a few hours.

And I was totally transfixed.

It had so surpassed any expectations that I was literally stunned into numbness. Each page brought a hundred story ideas and character ideas, and the world overview in the center of the book had me spooging all over the place. I loved the tragedy and the nobility of it. Humanity all but decimated, but reorganizing itself. The human spirit kept down for awhile but coming back at full force, and I was highly offended at Earth being the playground for untold arrays of alien beings. I was totally into this, and this was so totally into me. The interesting combination of technology and magic and the idea of scholars and literates being outlaws really had me going. I wasn't even much into the military stuff way back then, it was just the atmosphere of the game.

Then we tried to make characters, and that took an entire game session. Then we had some combats, and that took a whole lot of game sessions. Then we had an encounter with some mages, and that took a month. We revised a little, but kept going because it was SO COOL. Then the sourcebook came out and I got my robot legions. Then Vampire Kingdoms came out, and I remembered why it was that I loved this game. Whole kingdoms of vampires, casted and everything. Oh yes. I incorporated some Masquerade rules into it and it was perfect as I sent the PCs to Mexico. Then came Atlantis, and it was like, wow, this is cool, but I can't use it now. Then came more and more books. England sucked. Africa really sucked. Wormwood was awesome but a totally different world. Then trends became apparent. Africa went down, but they never said anything about it. NGR was all toys. More and more books came out and more and more toys came out and less and less background was being put in. I wasn't getting world data, I was getting technical data. I didn't mind getting technical data, but it was just lists of toys. There wasn't even a coherent technical manual on how Rifts Earth technology exists and what levels they are at.

In the end, it was all the inconsistencies that really got to me. Not the rules ones, I expected those, but all the world data that was underdeveloped or forgotten in the process. All the little details that detracted from that first vision of Rifts Earth. I still read the original book from time to time to recall how it was back in the days before they defined the whole thing badly. And it never changes. Rarely updates the world, just presents it and leaves it behind.

And yet, you're right, I still work at it. Why?

The setting has so much potential. It's such a great idea. Even the mechanics can be skirted around, but it's the setting that keeps me entranced. Not the canon one necessarily, but the idea of the setting. The tragedy of humanity's climb back from their fall from grace, the noble spirit they show in doing so, the horror of our own Earth through the mirror darkly, the forcible entry of Earth into the metaphysical, the measures that individuals will take in the face of this (ie. what's required and what would we sacrifice in the face of it?). There are compelling ethical questions and social questions to be answered. There is much drama and tales of spirit to be had. That's why I work at it. It's got potential. It's drowning in itself. We're just here to set fire to the underbrush so that it can grow unhindered.


Note: This is the core of my entire feeling about this page. The play-by-play about getting the game and its supplements are totally accurate. The slow downward spiral that ensued thereafter is also documented. I still like that "setting fire to the underbrush" explanation. It sums it up deliciously.


Personally, I believe in standing by what you produce. I have stuff up on my webpages, RPG and not, and I stand by all of it and will discuss it at any chance. I'm regularly on the WW lists and the developers themselves are often there and you can talk to them directly and get more background information or make criticism about what they did and why you disagree with them. When people don't stand by what they produce, *then* I get suspicious.

The fact is that Palladium *has* gone downhill. I'm always one to give credit where it is due. Nightbane wasn't too bad. TMNT was great for its time. But the fact is that Palladium is still using models, terms and systems from 20 years ago, and it shows. And there is no sign of them updating it anytime soon. We have lots of questions and they don't answer them. I don't expect them to change their whole policy just for me, but at the same time, you can't expect me not to criticize them when they don't pay attention to their fans. They are not accountable. I live in Canada. We have a Liberal government that just got its third majority term. They aren't accountable either, and they smack of arrogance because of it.

I have repeatedly posted on this list about what I think is wrong with Palladium. I didn't call Kevin names, or refer to Maryann's parentage, or whatever. Again, because of the WW lists, I tend to have respect for most game developers who show their faces, but the ones who hide behind the corporate structure are the ones who don't get my respect. Deird'Re Brooks, who writes a bunch of stuff for WW, wrote a book that I really disliked. I mailed her about it and we discussed it and basically agreed to disagree. I didn't call her names or anything, I just outlined why I thought her direction wasn't the direction it should have taken. However, she takes the time to answer mail and explain her reasoning.

The quality of Rifts has been slowly descending. If it seems like there is a lot more complaining going on, does that not perhaps tell you something? I wasn't aware that this list was here to "speak well of Rifts." I just read that it was "a mailing list devoted to conversation about Palladium Games." As I understand it, we're all talking about those games. If it is overwhelmingly negative, then that can only be taken as a reaction to the company's books.

I *know* it's possible to mix quality and complexity. I am into Heavy Gear a lot, and that is practically my perfect RPG. I'd like to see more of that style in Rifts. If you're going to complain that we're complaining too much, I think you should at least acknowledge that we're not just complaining to complain, but because the product isn't up to certain standards (that admittedly vary with each person, but even that should tell you something). The fact that they don't want to defend it (presumably because of all of the negative flaming) should say a lot as well. In fact, it does say an awful lot. And it has little to do with the trolls that wander on here and slag away at Palladium.

Finally, a week ago or so they asked us to post what we felt was wrong with Rifts these days. I will repost this so you can see a little constructive criticism. Since everyone ignored it the first time around:

As a matter of fact, I am quite proactive. I don't just complain, but I attempt to change things. Hence my webpage.

Anyways, as I already stated, I'd like World Books to actually include world and cultural data (and yes, Palladium, that might mean doing a little research!), a Grand Unified Technical Manual describing how things work and various tech levels encountered in Rifts, toybooks (a line that would give effective and useful gear, be it guns, armor, or whatever). A single comprehensive psychic and magic sourcebook. A HISTORICAL book with a unified, consistent timeline and the events leading up to the Rifts and events afterwards.

I can generate my own toys. I'm tired of the sameness of Rifts. Interesting, culturally specific world data is what I really want. Not a few pages of writeup and a bunch of psychic powers and bad deebs (Psyscape) or reams of toys wrapped around scant text (NGR). It's not like White Wolf where I can just get a travel guide and learn about the city. Rifts is a unique world -- I want to learn more about it, not about what great toys they have in the NGR. I want to know how the population feels about the war, how the troops are holding up, how people live so "under the gun" all the time, that sort of thing, for NGR for instance.

I love the setting *idea* for Rifts. I just think it's been delegated to a generic setting by the fact that Palladium is not being as truly creative as they should be with it. Ask each of us what is going on in Scotland in Rifts and we'd each come up with something different. There are infinite ideas, literally! All I want is for them to break out of the cut-and-paste mode and produce some truly great material! They *can* do it sometimes, I've seen it, but they are awfully lazy about their books these days. SoT1, for instance, was pretty good as a rule with lots of useful background and *practical* discussions on magic and technology, as well as restraining mages and sosuch. Its sample towns and such were bad except for the Skelebot Graveyard, which was a *great* idea. Imagine the PCs walking through the silent twisted wrecks of those Boschian skelebots! That's great. That's interesting. I can use that. I can't use generic towns with bad central concepts. I can't use 2-D characters and NPCs.

Oh, and NPCs, it'd be nice to see some balance. You know, not CS-greatest-evil-since-Satan. The CS would not arbitrarily be cruel and unusual, especially not to the degree posited in most books. They are the last bastion for humanity, the only fighting chance for the human race as far as those of North America are concerned, and they believe in what they are doing. Palladium characterizes them to such a degree that I'd expect them to sit around and cackle madly at each other and yell, "OH, WE'RE SO EVIL!" I mean, really. No villian *thinks* he's a villian. Humans are motivated by belief. The CS believes it is bringing back humanity from the brink of extinction. Tolkeen believes that the CS is insane on power and mad with bloodlust. Which is right? Both. Neither. Humans are more complex than any pigeonholing, much less to Palladium's degree.

I don't think Palladium has ever evolved. It never really needed to, to be fair. They still exist in this early 80s land of black and white, where the men are knights and the women are princesses waiting to be saved from the evil prince. I have spent the latter days of my RPG life crafting unique, three-dimensional characters that anyone could pick up and play because they practically breathe on their own. Palladium seems cheap and like, to paraphrase Orwell, that they have six characters, but swop them around a little.

Anyways, I don't know. This is all old news for people who know me. If Palladium was to modernize, I'd be happy. There is a wealth of great games out there, from Heavy Gear to Unknown Armies. Heck, even DnD has made itself over (albeit mandated by its new owners) but it's emerged *better* because it was forced to change. Palladium has never changed, or needed to change, or been forced to change, so it's always the same old stuff repackaged. I sort of feel like I'm reading MAD Magazine sometimes when I get Palladium books because it's like I've seen it all before in old issues..


Note: This was in response to a message on the Palladium mailing list that everyone seemed to be slagging the hell out of Palladium and that the poster was getting sick of it. The whole message basically comes down to "do you think that it's negative for a reason?" ;P Heck, even the PML noticed and said that Rifts was going downhill, which is where that whole thread started. When THEY notice it, then you know something's up. :) That led into the next message which talked about why Maryann Siembieda left the PML.


I've seen the Net at its worst. I was on the Aberrant mailing list when the developer, Kraig Blackwelder (who is a stand-up guy, BTW), suggested that perhaps he would leave out the level 4-6 powers to the Storyteller's Guide instead of putting them in the Player's Guide. Well, this opened a huge-ass can of vitrol and hatred that I've rarely seen before. Everyone was immediately pissed that their characters would not stand up to the "signature characters" and that Kraig was obviously saying that the players were too stupid to actually handle the upper level powers and this and that. It was incredibly mean-spirited and bitter and to this day I remember it with an immense disgust. Secondary only to that was when Ken Cliffe (also a good guy) was victim of White Wolf's Hunter: The Reckoning marketing stunt that stated that WW was bought by another company. WW fans on the Net went into a frothing frenzy of worry, and then it turned into utter disgust after it was revealed it was meant to be promotional to Hunter.

No matter what you write, there will *always* be people that don't like it, and traditionally they act in a very foul manner. You could write the best book ever and have it appeal to everyone and you'd still get people online telling you how it could have been even better. The point is not to please all of the people all of the time, but to please the majority of your customers. After all is said and done, it's still a business, and you can have the most interesting and detailed and unique game ever but if it doesn't sell, you're going to tank. Economics drives the industry, not passion, and don't kid yourselves otherwise. Ask any freelance writer how quickly they'll compromise their "artistic values" to put food on the table.

Frankly, I have nothing against Kevin or Maryann themselves, as fellow humans. I certainly don't wish them ill. It's their products that I rail against (although some early rants on my webpage reference Kevin as a "nerf-head" which may be construed as rude :). It *is* possible to "attack" the product and not attack the authors. When I say that Palladium is way behind the times, I'm not attacking Kevin himself for not changing, but criticizing his business practices. I don't think anywhere you will ever find the phrase "Kevin is an asshole" or any such thing out of me. I'd be very surprised if you did find it.

But the fact is this, and I've said it before and I'll say it again. I am very suspicious of writers who don't stand by their work. I'm not deluded enough to think that they all owe me explanations when they write their material, but I'm concerned when I hear that they are cutting out fan feedback simply because it is primarily negative, if that's the case. Writing something is sharing something of yourself with the audience, and it's easy to take criticism as personal. That's where the Aberrant crowd muffed up, because they took a business decision about what to place in a book personally. This list, while it generate an ungodly amount of stuff that I will never, ever use, typically is good because the authors will often stand by what they do, and the smart ones often learn and revise and repost newer versions. Palladium, as is evident, does not. That's where I have real problems with them.

To date, few people have sent me critical mail. Which is too bad because the few hate mails I got I replied to and discussed things at length. I stand by what I write, and if you're right, I'll change it and acknowledge you, but if I disagree, then you can feel free to think of my writing as useless or crap or whatever you wish, but that doesn't make me personally an idiot. Though the two often go hand in hand sadly. I posted something to the Mage list once and it was highly controversial to say the least and I got both positive and negative mail and I dealt with each and every one and converted a few of both but mostly agreed to disagree with the rest.

Criticism is valid. As long as you can constructively explain why. The blessing and curse both of the Net is its anonymity. Safely stashed behind a screen and keyboard, people who would normally never say boo come out with viciousness heretoforth unknown to the species. I'm always very disturbed and pissed off when I meet people in real life and they completely zone about the mails they send. "Oh, it's just text, it doesn't mean anything." Yeah, right. I take you at your face value -- if you post something, I assume you mean it. We're not here to lie a lot and be pricks -- that's mostly what IRC is for. Ha ha. The very nature of the Net is almost apolite, which I happen to personally disagree with but I'm in the vast minority. I, by my nature, remember there is someone on the other end of this message, another human, not just some convenient disassociated screen name for me to wail on.

Publishing will attract attention, and that won't always be good. I give Palladium credit when they earn it. It's just so rare these days that I'm entirely satisfied with them that it only seems like I bitch all of the time. But running and hiding from customer comments just because they are negative strikes me as very cowardly. If you are worried about not being liked, you really shouldn't be publishing books. It's a profession that demands a lot of security and a good dose of professionalism as well. You have to roll with the punches, not run from them, to use Palladium terms. :P Having a huge sense of humour helps a lot too. Keeps me sane, anyways, in the face of all of you people. Hee hee. :)

One of my early errors was disallowing artillery because of a lack of a GPS network. Wiser folks than I kindly reminded me that there was artillery long before GPS using foward observers. Did I get pissy and withdraw from e-mail? No. I said thank you, credited him with pointing it out and amended my file. Easy-peasy. One guy sent me a mail that called me a bunch of names, corrected something on the webpage, and called me more names. So I cut out all of the names, credited him with the correction and went on with life. Even if you are going to ignore the actual feedback, it's at least good grace to listen to it, or fake it really, really well.

Finally, there *is* something to be said about the reality of the situation. If they are tired of getting stupid questions, they should clarify their rules better. If they are sick of getting hate mail, they should deal with it like the rest of us and hit the delete key. But if they are always getting negative comments, I mean, in most industries this would be a signal for perhaps a slight change in policy, but at Palladium it apparently means to do your best ostrich imitation. And yes, we are a vocal minority, but considering the vast number of "me too!" messages I get from my webpage, I'd suggest that our numbers may be growing. I don't even think it's a matter of getting Rifts "our way" because we're only for consistency and practicality in it. Clarity, even. Look at the age-old furor over attacks per melee. Such a simple thing but the main manual was so cryptic on it that it still provokes debates to this day which are ultimately settled with House Rules (non-Net folks) or the FAQ (Net folks). But the point is that people bitching about Palladium aren't all crackpots and insane shunned losers. There are some very good points out there.

Let me re-emphasize that last point. Remember when I posted after the whole Emotion Factor thing? Simply having a good point isn't enough these days if you present it like an asshole. We in the grown-up world call it "tact" and "diplomacy". I give everyone a basic level of respect unless they prove themselves unworthy of that respect. I think it might behoove the list to remember that, because we're all people sitting here reading these, not just little flame targets (necessarily). You may have a great point but if you start and end the post with "you shithead" then you'll likely not make it very well.

And *really* finally now, you must recall too that sometimes there are just trolls and idiots out there. It's a fact of life. Not everyone is a great person. Sometimes it's best to make your point and just *let it go*. You just have to sort of shake your head and put your hands up and go "ooooookey dokes". I still think it's a pretty bad excuse to withdraw from the list for, but oh well, I wouldn't expect Palladium to listen to me anyways.

To quote Mr. Miller, that's just my opinion, I could be wrong.

Pete, not just ugly but long-winded too

Note: This was in response to a thread about Maryann not being on the PML anymore. That's more about accountability on this page and my list, more than anything about Palladium itself. It's just cloaked well. Hee hee. This was the message which I elaborated on the point that if Palladium was sick of getting tons of questions, why didn't it clarify its rules? No one ever answered that satisfactorily. ::smile::

N9 Note: Pete has a placeholder in the raw HTML for "WHY HATE THE RIFTER?". With Pete, I can't say I'm surprised.

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