softcover, revised edition
by Kevin Siembieda
1983/1991 Palladium Books, Detroit MI, USA
Palladium Fantasy as this game is also called, is very much a one man effort. Both the rules, descriptions and the very crafty grey pencil artwork are all made by Kevin Siembieda. As such it's a laudable piece of work. Twohundred seventyfive pages of work. In small font.
But it leaves you pretty much in the dark how the game is played. In the introduction Kevin says he's “not going to bore you with some lengthy explanation or history of role playing”. But I wish he would have. Without this statement one might have suspected this book was not a game, but a bundle of stencils from an old style, classic Dungeons & Dragons home brew set of rules. Then again, maybe that's exactly what it is. Old style home brew.
If you assume it's like D&D, then it's indeed possible to make something of it. Then it's another dungeon delving, hack and slay, search and destroy, loot and loot type of game. Old style. Home brew. And this book features a complete different set of tables, classes, races, specific rules, and monsters. And more even, a big collection of spells and wards.
The spell lists are probably the best of the whole thing. They are so colourful, the descriptions sometimes so gross, and the pages of runic drawings so intriguing that you'd think to be holding an actual magical tome. You could get scared that some of the spells actually work. Someone else must have thought so too, because a special note on one of the fist pages says: “ALL of us at Palladium Books condemn the belief and practice of the occult”. That's a relief then. The next sentence says “Dedicated to the Defilers”. That does not help.
But the Defilers are just a gaming group whose imaginary characters imaginarily wrecked some imaginary evil temple. Nothing occult or demonic. That's just the old style thing again. Old style where undiluted evil, tough monsters, powerful items, and combat tables and statistics are more important than story. Because the story is mostly the same. The evils locked themselves up in some underearth tunnel system, and the heroes break in to slay them and steal their ill gained treasures. In passing they also save the local townsfolk or the universe, but that's just secondary.
Palladium does have a game master section with a sample adventure, but that starts only at page 250. After the full seven pages of world information. And the other twohundredforty something pages are for monsters, races, classes, spells and combat rules. So it is clear what's deemed important.
If old style is your thing, you might want to scrounge the book for ideas. You might even give the rule set a try if you are bold. If it's not, you may enjoy the drawings, the feel, and especially the almost real looking spell book sections. You could even use it as a spell book mock up in one of your games. It's just as good looking, cryptic and intriguing as it should be for that purpose.
(rules are old style D&D like, suited to dungeon delving and experience point collecting, but with little flexibility in character design, and little realism, finding specific rules can be a nuisance in the big book)
(especially the art work and the look of the spell books are very inspiring, but most descriptions are too brief and just suited to old style search and destroy gaming, less to real role playing)
(if you know old school D&D the playability may actually be better, but if you don't it may be far less. You might not even be able to start)
(occult looking spell books with 290 spells, 60 wards, 50 magic circles, excellent artwork, 20 classic D&D like character classes, lots of monsters, demons, devils, gods, and practical interpretations of alignment – evils do not always torture for pleasure for example, according to these lists. Lots of look up tables, and lots of percentage dice rolling)