Thursday, November 5, 2009


Let me just state something loud and clear and up front: I DO have an absolute favorite source book for Rifts and it has no bionics whatsoever in it.
Rifts Dimension Book 1: Wormwood is my all-time favorite supplement for Rifts. Out of the entire Palladium game line, it is probably my single favorite book. Hands down, no question.
How much do I like it? Let me put it to you this way: when I made my decision seven or so years ago to sell all my Palladium material I had several reasons, the biggest one being that I wanted to trim my game collection down to ONLY the games I might someday play again in the future, and Palladium, by dint of its sheer crap-tasticness was on the chopping block.
Wormwood almost stopped me from selling.
Not only that, but when it came time to actually part ways with my books (not an easy task for me as I am one big, nostalgic packrat when it comes to things that have sentimental value…even beloved RPG books!) I nearly retained Wormwood just to keep on the shelf. The only thing that prevented me from doing so was that it was un-playable without the core book.
When I went and picked up Rifts the other day, I purchased the Borg Sourcebook to go with it…the whole reason I re-purchased Rifts in the first place was to “take a stroll down ‘borg lane.” But if Wormwood had been on the shelf, I would have picked it up in a heartbeat…once those floodgates open, man, look out!
For those who’ve never owned it, Wormwood is a supplement for Rifts that details the pocket dimension/planet of Wormwood. It can be used as a stand-alone setting (like all the World books) or as a possible destination for adventuresome characters exploring an interdimensional rift. The sheer awesomeness is somewhat over-shadowed by the SINGLE MOST UGLIEST RULES OVERSIGHT IN ALL OF PALLADIUM. In order to get onto the awesomeness, let me just get the negative part out of the way:
In the Wormwood dimension, the indigenous humans/fauna are all mega-damage creatures. This is explained to be by dint of the environment they grow up in, the food they eat, etc. However, they do NOT possess supernatural strength.
WHAT THE F***?! So if two dudes get into a fist-fight, they do what exactly to each other? D4 the PS bonus SDC damage? Which doesn’t scratch MDC (it’s like punching a tank). Which would usually result in breaking your own hand. Except that your hand is an MDC structure too. Which means you can’t hurt yourself with your own wimpy normal strength. Which means everyone kind of bounces off each other I guess. Same if they fall down. Or throw an (MDC strength) resin goblet at another’s head. UGH!
STUPID STUPID STUPID. Now I can guess some “reasons” behind the idiocy. 1st off, this is a supplement to RIFTS. Which means that Rifts characters clad in MDC armor and carrying MDC weapons are going to be popping up and the designers don’t want them quickly wrecking the joint. Likewise, the monsters of Wormwood are all MDC creatures (to challenge those same Rifts characters I’m sure) and if the primitive folks of Wormwood were flimsy SDC folks they’d probably have already been exterminated.
As to why they aren’t simply supernatural creatures themselves? I don’t know...I guess they didn’t want them throwing each other miles and miles into the air. Or maybe they didn’t want to encroach on the special abilities of THIS GUY:

Okay, so let’s get to the good stuff about Wormwood (oh, by the way, I never have figured out an adequate fix for this ugliness…in the past I’ve simply ignored the average strength individual entirely, but this wouldn’t work in a true long term, Wormwood-specific campaign):
First off, much of the art is quite, quite good. The Wormwood world itself appears to be the brainchild of comic book authors Timothy Truman and Flint Henry and their adventuresome little comic at the beginning sets the tone for the book. Much of the art within Wormwood’s pages are taken from this comic and there are some nice pieces.
Second, the Wormwood setting is just damn interesting. A truly alien world, Wormwood is a truly living world (as is our own, of course, but Wormwood is a little more proactive with its symbiotic stance). The planet itself creates everything its human inhabitants need…food (worms!), water, resin (for fashioning gear, furniture, weapons), shelter (caves), helpful parasitic/symbiotic organisms (more worms!). I love it…it’s like a weird horror/sci-fi/fantasy novel from the 60s or 70s…like something Marion Zimmer Bradley would write (though less sex and more worms!).
Thirdly, the Wormwood setting is rife with opportunity for CONFLICT, not just combat. Monsters are knocking at the door. People are getting snatched to power the Unholy horde’s war machines (a la the Mutant Chronicles) and being turned to evil (fighting your family!). The Cathedral military/religious institution has been corrupted from within. There are rivalries of class (as in “class system”) in addition to rivalries of deed between the knightly orders (the Templars and the Hospitallers). Then, of course, there are those interdimensional travelers (from Rifts Earth and elsewhere/when) who can bring their own agendas to Wormwood (again, the comic shows this as well with Lazarus Vesper and the Goblin Queen, two non-Wormwood inhabitants embroiled in the politics of the dimension).
Fourthly the OCCs are pretty groovy. The Worm Speakers are awesome (anything that utilizes worms in Wormwood is awesome), the priests have elastic morality, and I dig the knights of both orders (I like Wormwood’s knights even better than Rifts England, and I thought THEY were pretty cool). The Holy Roller is the kind of kid’s toy that every Saturday morning cartoon needs (you know, a Chewbacca kind of sidekick)…and by the way Wormwood feels A LOT like an old school Saturday Morning Cartoon. I mean that it a good way! And, of course, there’s the Apok.

The Apok OCC is my absolute favorite character class in all of Rifts…and quite possibly all of Palladium. I’ve said before that I love the Vagabond OCC (the fact that he has “baseball cap” as part of his standard equipment is very endearing). I dig ‘Borgs and have a newfound respect for the Headhunter (a different post). And I love the Juicers decadent crash course projection (their theme song should be AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell”).
But the Apok out-cools all of ‘em. I have said before that I love tales of “falls and redemption” (one of the reasons I am so big on Dark Side rules in Star Wars). The Apok character is a human that went over to the side of Darkness but got his shit together and turned his life around…and now wages a one-man/woman battle against the same forces to whom he previously sold his soul. The symbol of his repentance is the mask he wears and, fashioned from the resin of Wormwood, it gifts him with plenty of Evil-fighting powers…including the ability to turn any normal SDC weapon into an MDC weapon for fighting the bad guys!
[now you see why the “regular folks” don’t do MDC damage? They’d be upstaging the Apok!]
The Apok’s power and prowess causes fear and dissension in the Unholy ranks…he’s a one-man killing machine (like Jack Bauer with an AXE). You may call ME a twink for my love affair with the Apok, but even without the kewl powers, I’d still want to play one. Seriously! For me, nothing says “badass” like a dude with a hood, a mask, and a meat cleaver. Come get some, mother-f***r!!!
Hell, back in college (where I studied the dramatic arts) I even created a puppet for my puppetry class based on the Apok on the cover…I’ll post an image here one of these days.

For all these reasons…the weirdness, the worms, the drama, the conflict, the Apok….Wormwood is my favorite Rifts book of all time. If I ever get around to my own “streamlined” version of the Palladium game system, you can bet your bottom dollar that I’ll be doing things with Wormwood in mind.
OH…one last “bonus” cool thing about Wormwood. Unlike, other Palladium games/supplements, I don’t recall SKILLS being a prevalent at all in Wormwood. People don’t learn Radio:Basic or Electronics (as far as I remember) in this pretty-much-medieval setting; hell, I seem to remember the Confessor (the badass NPC Apok of the game setting) only having Hand-to-Hand Expert…and no boxing or acrobatics! Fewer skills (or lesser emphasis on ‘em) is a GOOD thing in any RPG, but ESPECIALLY in Palladium!
: )


  1. Totally with you on this one, I love Wormwood. If it weren't saddled with the Rifts/Palladium system, I think it would be hugely popular. A stand-alone Wormwood RPG using the d20 or Savage Worlds system would totally rock.

  2. Wish I had read this earlier. I was just at my FLGS and would have looked around to see if they had this on the shelves.

  3. @ Rognar: D20?!! Shut your mouth!
    ; )

    @ Pal: Good luck finding it...the web site says it's still in print but I haven't seen it on the shelves lately.
    : (

  4. Whoops. I forgot myself in all the excitement over Wormwood.

  5. We used an open world concept with RIFTS where everything went on the main Rifts Earth, so my Apok kept all his skills.

    I threw a holy axe once that smeared a SAMAS in one critical hit. My GM let me pick fighting skills from Ninjas and Superspies.