The Palladium Apocalypse Theory
Palladium Books has staked their claim in the world of pen and paper RPG’s as the purveyors of disaster. No other RPG publication group has so thoroughly or reliably chosen “post-apocalypse” as a setting, or taken it in the same directions. Rifts, Chaos Earth, After the Bomb, Nightbane, Dead Reign, and System Shock; all post-apocalyptic games, and in different veins for the most part too. Sure, they have other game lines, like Heroes Unlimited, Ninjas & Superspies, and the fantasy based Palladium RPG, but it’s the post-apocalyptic games where Palladium truly shines. But what if I told you that a large segment of the Palladium Megaverse was actually interconnected? Well strap on your tinfoil hats, it’s theory time.
It’s all rooted in a pair of near forgotten game lines at Palladium Books, Beyond the Supernatural (BtS) and After the Bomb (AtB). Both were headline series back in the day, but were rapidly overshadowed by the more popular Rifts and Heroes Unlimited series. Since then, they’ve languished in the fun but optional rules hell of the Rifter magazine, bereft of the full official support they deserve. So how are they interconnected? Part is through what I call the 2098 Apocalypses, the ones that produce the settings of Rifts, Chaos Earth, and After the Bomb. The others are contemporary cataclysms, as seen in Dead Reign and Nightbane.
The contemporary horror game BtS is the most connected. BtS earth represents an earth on the edge of apocalypse. It’s directly connected with Rifts Earth, via the character Victor Lazlo, and by extension to that, connected to what I call the Antediluvian Earth (the Earth of Atlantis, Lemuria, and the Nazcan Empire as described in the various Rifts World Books). But it could go further than that. Chaos Earth is “Rifts Light”, a world where the return of magic wasn’t nearly as cataclysmic because the nuclear exchange that triggered it occurred just out of the ideal planetary alignment period. Which means that it’s still the future of BtS. So there, you have concrete connections to two settings from BtS.
BtS also represents the conditions and an accurate pre-end of times setting needed for two other apocalypse settings though. Those being Dead Reign and Nightbane. Dead Reign is relatively straight forwards; you need a world with magic in it, and cults dabbling in the unspeakable for evil purposes. BtS provides both. When it was first introduced in Rifter #40, Dead Reign was a direct development from BtS; and outlined a terrifying series of events that ultimately doomed the world. The description matches perfectly with a BtS levels of magic, and the apocalypse, like most with a date given or implied in Palladium books games, occurs on a solstice or during a period of astrological significance. Now, admittedly, the main book for Dead Reign played it a lot easier on the causes of the zombie apocalypse, and downplayed the BtS connections, but they’re still the best ones. Nightbane, on the other hand, is a bit of a different kettle of fish.
Nightbane is what I refer to as the “quiet apocalypse”. No one ever noticed it coming, but everyone saw it start, and no one knows how much things have changed. March 6th is not usually a date associated with anything, but the description of the preparation for planetary invasion is in sync with what is possible in the world of BtS. Nightbane in this regard can be seen as an ambush apocalypse, where the forces fighting otherworldly influences in the world of BTS were caught off guard both by the level of subtlety and out of season display of magical might. Nightbanes themselves would have been right at home as an unusual denizen of the BtS world as well. The link here is more tenuous than the ones with Rifts, Chaos Earth, and Dead Reign, but still worth exploring, as it adds more depth and history to the setting.
Now, you’re probably wondering were AtB fits into all of this. It doesn’t have magic per se, and psionics and psychic abilities work very differently there, so is there a BTS connection? Nope, but there is one to Rifts and by extension, Chaos Earth. AtB is one of the 2098 Apocalypses, but where Rifts and Chaos earth had the “Cataclysm”, it had the “Flash” or “The Crash” (these terms reflecting the original and later editions of AtB), and the time is strongly implied to be the same by that old gem, Mutants in Orbit. The connection here is mutant animals. In the Lone Star, South America, South America 2, and Underseas world books, the details of The Achilles Project, ShaperCorp, Tex-Am, and the race for genetic science mastery unfold. AtB is the world of Rifts without the magic component and where there was no massive military build up to spur the creation of MDC materials and Mega Damage weapons. There are other connections as well, such as the Empire of Humanity and their mutant dog allies from New Kennel, which are very much an ancestral strain of DNA that went into the creation of the Coalition States in Rifts. The background material in the AtB book is sparse though, and is neatly filled in by the material in the Rifts supplements. Not only that, but it also provides more potential for a setting still very much mired in the goofiness of the early era of RPGS.
So, there it is. The interconnected nature of a number of Palladium Books settings laid bare. Beyond the Supernatural is not only a contemporary horror RPG setting, but also a historical setting to for separate game lines! After the Bomb, a game set in a post-apocalyptic Earth, is an alternate dimension where magic never existed, but who shares certain developmental and historical aspects with Rifts Earth and Chaos Earth. It’s certainly cool, and has definitely added some much, much needed depth to the setting.