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Sharing Jekyll and Hyde

When it comes to sharing, Palladium has at best a mixed record.

I’ll start with the positive. Every year Palladium has a very generous Christmas sale. The Christmas Grab Bag in 2017 offered at least $90 of product, measured by MSRP, for $45. I know enough about the three tier market of producer, distributor, and retailer, to know that Palladium is getting between 25% and 40% of MSRP, at best, from distributors. I also know that they are very wedded to that system. Based on that the product cost generosity isn’t quite as great as it might seem.

However, they company takes list of wished for products and items you have to try to avoid duplicates. That is a vast investment of time. It is an investment of time at a time of year when employees tend to want more time off, not less. It is also an investment in someone. You expect your friends, partner, or family to go over a wish list in products and select ones for you.

You don’t expect it from a company.

I consider the Christmas grab bags a great act of generosity on the part of everyone at Palladium.

That’s the good. Now the bad.

Palladium takes a very unique view of IP law. As a result they have a very restrictive online policy which looks more like something out of 1995 than 2019. It has caused angry reactions which lead to lower web presence. Of particular note is the absolute ban on conversions:

For this reason, we can NOT allow any conversions of Palladium’s copyrighted works to other game systems (for example, Rifts® characters using D20 or GURPS stats), nor allow characters and settings from other companies and creators (for example, Marvel Super-Heroes or the Star Wars characters) to be presented/posted using Palladium’s game stats.

As I pointed out at the start of #rpgaday, Palladium comes into strong criticism for their system. A fan favorite is conversions, but don’t be caught passing it around. I was marginally on the receiving end when an early “Rifts d20” group on Yahoo got a strongly worded “stop or we’ll call the lawyers” letter.

I didn’t pick up a Palladium game for a couple of years after that.

Cover of the first Phase World book

Still, I have a privately passed around Big Eyes Small Mouth conversion for Rifts. I think Phase World is the ultimate anime space setting. I also have a Rifts d20 that is found in the usual locations. Personally, I think a tweaked version of Big Eyes Small Mouth d20 would be the ideal system for Palladium’s worlds.

Another interesting thing I remember on the web this policy killed was a version of Japan for Rifts that combined the world book with a huge influx of World of Darkness material, especially Werewolf: the Apocalypse material and some Vampire: the Masquerade items.

It has lead Palladium to engage in lawsuits. One almost bankrupted Wizards of the Coast shortly before that company released Magic: The Gathering.

This view of IP, considering it at risk at a level even Disney does not, is odd. It appears to stem from Kevin Siembieda’s attempt to enter the comic book industry prior to founding Palladium. I have never been able to get a complete story, but it appear Marvel used, or Kevin thinks they used at least, designs and materials he created while he was ghosting at Marvel.

What makes the continued use of such a close to the vest policy is Palladium exists due to the generosity of its fans. There is no question that donations and paying for over priced “save us” product during the cash flow problems saved the company. When one has fans loyal enough to do that I do not think asking the company to treat online fan works the same way companies with much more valuable IP do is too much to ask.

In the end, however, the Mr. Hyde side of Palladium on the subject of generosity hurts the company more than anyone. Sharing my conversions and materials on the web might get me feedback to make them better. People coming across those conversions and materials, however, might be inspired to buy Palladium books by those derivative works.

It also means when another crisis occurs people remember Palladium’s behavior towards other companies and fan. As Shannon Appelcline pointed in the gaming industry the fact that the side with more money wins lawsuits means everyone loses. The generosity of fans, which funded the Robotech Kickstarter in the first place, was drawn on again in the handling of the failure and loss of license. Now that generosity is needed to keep the company afloat.

Mr. Mean John Polack gives a good example of the attitude of many fans today.

I still buy Palladium product, but generally used. I have yet to buy a Christmas Grab Bag because of company policy. I’ll be very guarded on what I publish, although I have put details of a prior Rifts campaign on my old blog. I am not really upset about the claim of ownership on derivative works for the most part. It is in bounds. It is the handling of it that rubs me the wrong way, especially by a man who begs when he needs cash and brushes off the mismanagement of $1.4 million dollars of Kickstarter money. The broadness of the derivative claim also creates similar issues to the Genesys Community License. I will point out that problem was solved in less than a week. I would also point out, unlike Palladium, it was about supporting fans wanting to make money off work using the Genesys setting and two published settings.

In the long run, I wish the Kevin Siembieda who created the Christmas Grab Bags would become closer friends with the Kevin Siembieda who controls the online policy. The harshness of the later has the effect of silencing the fans who would be evangelizing the company and its products. Palladium is a world of classic comics goodness in a gaming world that has lost that spirit.

I wish that could shine more.

RPG-a-Day 2019 Posts

Day 1: Three Firsts
Day 2: Unique Features of Palladium
Day 3: Engaging the World
Day 4: Sharing Jekyll and Hyde
Day 14: Dream Blindness

#rpgaday2019


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3 Comments

  1. BobtheRegisterredFool BobtheRegisterredFool

    I don’t think I’ve seen such an extensive series on Palladium.

    I’ve mostly heard about RIFTS. How should I understand the whole of Palladium games in regards to RIFTS?

    Secondly, you have said that it is very anime. Are we talking Eighties anime? Eighties and nineties? Do you have enough knowledge of more modern anime to break it down more finely than that?

    • RIFTS is everything else and the kitchen sink. It is the final version of the rules system and a several earlier games, Fantasy, Heroes Unlimited, and Beyond the Supernatural got second editions to bring it in line, although the last was never finished (kind of like this series).

      Rifts magic and spells were initially larger from the Palladium Fantasy RPG. Rifts psionics include the original Mechanoids psionics as a subset. The Mechanoids feature in Rifts Book Four Africa and Sourcebook 2: The Mechanoids. Fan material set the new Roman Empire in Rift’s Europe as connected to the Wolfen Empire of the PFRPG.

      Looking at the illustration of the Defilers, Kevin’s group circa 1980, I suspect Rifts Earth is just part of his old fantasy campaign writ large.

      As for Phase World being anime like (and I do mean just Phase World) I’m looking at that from a late 80s/early 90s Macross, Robotech, Gundam view, although Rifts could handle a variant on Area 88 or Appleseed (although I know the latter’s manga better). The only contemporary references in anime I can use (for some value of contemporary) are Knights of Sidonia, which could be a weird Phase World or Rifts driven game, although the GM would have to homebrew a lot and Witch Hunter Robin, which could be a great influence on a Beyond the Supernatural game which wanted to treat the good guy org as questionable.

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