Friday, May 25, 2012

King for a Day: Palladium Books

Continuing in the vein of both my King for a Day concept (wherein I blog about what I would do if I were somehow in charge of stuff) and in the recent posts about Palladium books, today’s post is all about both of those things deliciously smashed together like peanut butter and chocolate.

Suddenly I want to watch this movie.

Two Scoops of Changes in Every Box

If I were King for a Day at Palladium, I would have two major things on my mind—two big changes that, IMHO, that would be absolutely necessary.

A New Way of Doin’ Bizness

The first big change would be to modernize and revolutionize the way the company does business. This is a deceptively simple idea, but to break it down, here’s what I’m thinking:

  • New approach to production. InDesign is the new in-house tool for layout. Everything is done on computers.

  • New approach to development. All projects would have a developer (probably each LINE would have an individual developer). All books would have a modern approach to development that leverages vision documents, book plans, discussion groups, and—above all—a highly professional approach to working with freelancers, all-inclusive: editors, writers, artists, proofreaders & playtesters. Contracts would be clear and required at the beginning of each project. Expectations would be made very clear, and I’d implement a system where there’s at least one review step between assignment and turn-in to avoid any “Dark Reign”-style mishaps. Freelancers would be encouraged to take ownership of their assignments. Line Developers would be encouraged to take ownership of their lines. This means owning both the good and the bad, both the triumphs and the mistakes—but personal investment cannot be overvalued.

  • New approach to content. Each line would have its own webpage. Each product would have a free preview and web enhancement built into its production budget. I’d especially want to reach out to some of the more celebrated and talented freelancers from Palladium Books’ past to work on the new generation: CJ Carella, Bill Coffin, Jason Marker, Josh Hilden—those names would be at the top of my list.
It's amazing how often I need to actually say this out loud.

No doubt I’d want to bring on board plenty of great writers I’ve worked with before personally to add some kick (and since there’d be no guarantees that any of the “old crowd” would actually be willing to come back, even under new management).

A Brand New System for a Brave New World

The second big change would be a complete and thorough overhaul of Palladium’s house system. Ideally, I’d like to keep much of what is iconic and cool from Palladium’s system (as much as possible), but the overriding goal would be a modern, smooth, clear and consistent ruleset.

No doubt there are at least dozen different ways to implement a system upgrade, but I think I would lean towards creating something original rather than using an outside system like Savage Worlds. Systems are part of an IP’s identity and I think there’s room to keep some of that identity while still getting a much better system in place.

Other Changes

I’d have some plans for the main Palladium Books lines as well…



Skull squadron. Accept no substitutes.

I’d continue to update the Robotech line with new and interesting material that expands the universe. Particularly I’d like to get some good adventure books into the pipeline. I have plans for an in-depth review of the Robotech RPG at a future point, so I’ll keep this section short and sweet. I’d like to see more focus on the themes of Robotech, more background information, and mechanics that help immerse players in the Robotech universe… with a lot less “gun and mecha porn.” Not that having new guns and mecha isn’t cool, but the current set has a bit too much of this and not enough of the other stuff.

If possible (and I have no idea how possible this would be, given the situation with the IP and the rights with the license), I’d love to re-release the older books. At the very least, I’d love to offer them for POD or electronically as PDFs, and I’d wager you could make a profit on those sales. (I know I’d buy some of the books I’m missing from the line!)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles


Seriously, if you ever liked TMNT at all, you should watch this.

Again, I’m ignorant of the license issues with this game, but it would definitely be awesome to build another edition of this game. Updated with information about the different incarnations of the Turtles (has anyone seen the excellent movie Turtles Forever, as an example?) and naturally featuring the new smooth house system, this one would definitely be aimed at the nostalgia factor. Probably not worth continuing as a full line, but as a one-off, I think it has potential.

And now for the big one…



Kevin Long is the man.

In my opinion, Rifts is an IP goldmine. It has a compelling and unique setting with tons of interesting characters, locations, organizations and technology. The first thing I’d want to do with Rifts is feature a huge release for the second edition. Using the new, smoother house system, Rifts 2.0 would be the biggest launch I could afford—I’d put a big marketing budget on this one. I’d have an open playtest of the rules, I’d have plenty of previews, I’d talk about the game on podcasts, I’d have a quick-play preview at Free RPG Day, and anything else I could think of.
(A huge opening at Gen Con with guys in Coalition and Ley Line Walker costumes comes to mind...)

I’d definitely make sure to try and hire back artists like Kevin Long, Clyde Caldwell, Wayne Breaux, and Ramon Perez (and many more) to bring the art of Rifts 2.0 to life.

After the big release of Rifts 2.0, I’d look at some other ways to leverage the IP. A slick boardgame would be a good investment—I’d hire someone like Eric Lang or Kevin Wilson to look at the IP and create something truly awesome. I’d also look into acquiring the rights for the long-lost N-gage game, Promise of Power, and see what it would take to release that on the apple store as a game for tablets and iphones. I’d look into developing a small isometric turn-based strategy game for the Coalition War Campaign, again for tablets and iphones.

For the RPG, I’d task my line developer with working up some additional new dimensions to round out the “Dimension Books” side.

I’d also like to revisit (and revise) some of the more problematic areas of Rifts Earth that could really use some polish—Australia, Canada, England, I’m looking at you! The role of the Coalition would need to be looked at more in-depth (are they the saviors of humanity or the worst thing ever? It would probably be a good idea to figure that out!) and the system would need to take into account the unique archetypes of the setting, such as Glitter Boys and Techno-Wizards.

I’d want to look at areas of Rifts Earth that could use more information—Rifts Hong Kong, anyone?
Personally, I’d love to see some expansions to my favorite parts of Rifts Earth, such as Atlantis, the Mercenary books (how about a revised and expanded Mercenaries?), South America, the New Navy, the New West, Kingsdale, Merctown, Triax, Wormwood, Phase World, and many more.

And the Rest

To be perfectly honest, I don’t really have any concrete thoughts in mind as to what I would do with the other Palladium Books’ lines, aside from update all of them to the new ruleset and make sure they’re all available as PDF for people who want them.

Ross Watson’s “Big Book of Borgs.”


One of the poster boys of Rifts, along with the Ley Line Walker, Juicer, Coalition Soldier, and Glitter Boy.

I’m tacking this on to the end of this King for a Day piece, as is it is still a bit of a dream rather than reality but less about me being in charge of the entire company. :)

Keep in mind that the ideas below are just the basics of an outline for a proposal—I had plans to add a lot more detail and flesh out a lot of the concepts here if the company liked the initial pitch.

Once upon a time I had a fierce desire to write a book for Rifts. I wanted to create a sourcebook for cyborgs, especially partial- and full-conversion cyborgs (some of the more iconic images of Rifts Earth!). Now, Rifts already had a bionics sourcebook (a collection of various bionic parts and bits from the rest of the line) and the main entry in the Rifts RPG.

My “Big Book of Borgs,” however, was going to be less about the toys (although it would definitely include some new bionics, some new ‘borg bodies and limbs, and so forth) and more about the experience of being a borg in Rifts Earth.

I wanted to discuss the various famous cyberneticists, from the back-alley street docs of Kingsdale to the Coalition cyberneticists in Chi-town. I wanted to showcase some specific Borg NPC’s and have a substantial portion of the book set aside for roleplaying as a Borg. How would it change your worldview if you were nothing more than a brain inside a massively armored bionic body? For one thing, I’d make sure that I could do some basic repairs on myself and carry around a spare toolkit just in case! For another, I’d have less trouble jumping in front to protect my friends, knowing that if an arm gets blown off I can just find a mechanic and repair it!

There are game mechanics issues to consider as well—what built-in weapon do you choose? Melee or ranged? What skills can find new and interesting applications when you’re a Borg?

Lastly I’d have the book present a chapter on the role of a Borg in a typical adventuring party in Rifts. What does the Borg do that the Ley Line Walker and Glitter Boy can’t? Where does the Borg best fit in and stand out with his unique abilities? How can you build a Borg character to be more than just “the big guy with the big gun?”

These are the basics of the book I wanted to write for Rifts. However, the business practices of Palladium Books changed my mind—it’s a shame, since I’d still love to write this book someday (see Part 2 of my Publisher Profile on Palladium Books for more).

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