Let’s talk about the rules. Palladium Books was once a trendsetter and a genuinely creative force in designing both worlds and rules. During the 1980s mechanics like their revamped alignments, experience point awards for more than just killing things and realistic combat mechanics in games like Recon were outstanding. To this day I vastly prefer Palladium’s alignment system to D&D’s and it’s simplicity makes it great for introducing new players to roleplaying morality in general. Unfortunately, at the height of their success Palladium released Rifts…and that’s when the stagnation set in. Rifts was such a massive bestseller in the RPG market that at some point Kevin Siembieda decided that the Megaversal Palladium rules were the pinnacle and ultimate evolutionary endpoint of RPG mechanics, and decided to never change them again.
Come 2011 and even the most die-hard Palladium fans acknowledge and rant about the shortcomings of the rule system, including but not limited to: basic rules for things like climbing or wilderness trekking scattered across 30 books; 3 different and contradictory mechanics for jumping; an indefinite-and-never-clearly-defined list of over 25 different saving throws; rules for skills, combat and weapon proficiencies that are slightly-different across product lines like Rifts, Splicers or Heroes Unlimited. The rules are simply a mess. That’s not to say they’re bad, as some assume. They have many good points too, mainly in how detailed and exhaustive they can be (for those who prefer such complexity), but also in how set-in-stone they have become over time. Whether you consider it a gross failing ro a massive benefit, the fact is Palladium’s rules have changed very little over the last 20 years. Compare this to D&D, which has changed rulesets quite dramatically 3 times during the same time period. You can pick up a Rifts rulebook from 1991 and have no trouble playing with it using rulebooks from 2011. That kind of inertia is a rare – and double-edged – sword in the RPG industry. Read more