GARDEN of the GODS
A PALLADIUM FANTASY RPG SOURCEBOOK by Kevin Siembieda & Matthew Clements
There is a fairly long list of artists who have contributed to this book and as their work is so good and in so many different styles they each deserve a mention.
Amy L. Ashbaugh. Sires Jan Black. Nick 'the Brick' Bradshaw. Dave Carson. Steve Cummings. Kevin Long. Michael Mumah. Apollo Okamura. Roger Petersen. Tanya Ramsey. Benjamin Rodriguez. Kevin Siembieda and Charles 'Chuck' Walton Jr. Charles Walton & Eduardo Dominguez S are responsible for the strikingly captivating Cover painting.
Thirty-Seven years ago, in 1983, Kevin Siembieda launched his fantasy role-play game named after the company he owned (still owns) Palladium Books. This wasn't the first role-playing game Kevin had published as a couple of years earlier he had presented the Science Fiction based RPG 'The Mechanoid Invasion'. Released as three comic-book style books; the Mechanoid Invasion, Journey, and Homeworld, it featured mechanical mutants who invade Gideon E, capture humans and keep them on a mechanoid Mothership. Although being quite a decent set of ideas it never really took off for at the time the RPG world was mainly into the more serious Traveller™. Palladium Fantasy RPG fared on its launch but by then Dungeons & Dragons™ was in full flight, still beating any fantasy role-playing games to be favourite by a fairly long way, despite there now being a myriad of fantasy RPG's to choose from.
Palladium RPG did gain a foothold but generally not from players who still enjoyed D&D, the support came from players looking for something a little more realistic (a funny argument about something that is pure fantasy) and found Palladium's approach different enough from D&D, RuneQuest™, etc but finding itself virtually going toe-to-toe with RoleMaster™ which like Palladium RPG caused some confusion and discern amongst regular role-players because of its numerous use of italicism (even now the list of italicised items in Palladium games is often cause for discussion). However, of the RPG's released in the early 80's the Palladium RPG is one of, if not the only, survivor.
Using a similar system to Palladium RPG came Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness RPG (1985) Robotech and Robotech II RPG (1986/1987) and then the most popular Rifts in 1990. Palladium have since released other RPGs all based around the Palladium Fantasy RPG rules, Macross II, Nightbane, After the Bomb, Beyond the Supernatural, Chaos Earth, Dead Reign, Heroes Unlimited, Recon etc adjusted as necessary to suit the theme, but the major players in the Palladium saga of Rules, Source and World books are still the Fantasy RPG and Rifts.
The GARDEN of the GODS is an excellent prop, or book of props, for any GM to entice their players away from the normal fantasy scenario to explore an island sanctuary where supposedly all gods can be found, approached and asked for assistance. The island is known as Lopan and, along with its sister isle of Phi, resides in the Great Inland Sea, right in the known centre of the Palladium rpg World. Of course the GM can (as long as they remember what they have done if they are including it in a running campaign) set the Island wherever they wish, though if they are actually campaigning in the Palladium World then there is no reason not to use the specifics as revealed in this volume.
When you think how often and how well islands and statues (and islands with statues) have fared in books, role-play scenarios and movies, then seducing player characters to an 'enchanted isle', or however your GM handles it, through the promise of a World Games or a Chance to Discover the gods, old and new, would never be a problem. Statues of gods are renown for having magical properties, or being the hiding places of treasure, relics, artifacts, and are just the pull adventurers need to go on the hunt.
The Garden of the Gods is a wonder to investigate. It has flowers, fauna, trees the like of which have never been seen elsewhere in the World. It has excitement of one sort or another around just about every corner. Characters may find Blessings, Curses, Healing, in fact all manner of good and not so good powers are there to affect, infect or effect the characters. The deities who (supposedly/allegedly) inhabit the island and the Garden can be friendly, evil, nasty or good, but they can also be fickle, so it's usually a good job to know your gods and thus which are the statues for them, plus it's essential to know who of them demand offerings. This volume contains a percentile based list of offerings that the GM can use Randomly or simply choose from to suit the situation.
The Offerings list is not the only chart in the Garden of the Gods sourcebook. For instance, to help/aid the characters in their understanding there is a short but useful Insight Table which can be utilised to give one or more characters different perspectives on the island and/or the garden. Then there is a Random Table that the GM can use (again they should either be prepared already or note down their choices during play) to give the characters the opportunities to help different gods, often those gods who have been forgotten over time but also those campaiging characters may already be familiar with. Helping the gods can bring rewards, the usefulness of which can be taken straight from the book or modified by the GM. Usually if I am going to use such a pre-bought scenario I will have read it through and assigned what I believe (or want) the characters to be able to discover. Thus I will use the charts and tables from the book if they are good and fit in with my own take on the adventure - the ideas, charts and backgrounds in the Garden of the Gods make a GMs life so much easier - so that when the time arises that the characters reach the necessary part of the tale where something is going to become available to them I am ready without the need for random die-rolls and cross-referencing. The Garden of the Gods is a godsend to GMs in this way.
Not everything in the Garden of the Gods is rosey. Nature, Religion, and GMs like a reasonable balance, though luring the characters into a false sense of security and then springing evil upon them is never far away if the GM has a naughty sense of humour. The Garden of the Gods has its fair share of things that will not be pleasant encounters for adventurers and explorers who deign to tread its hallowed grounds.
For example, not every deity found here, either as a statue or in some other appearance, is a good god, at least not as far as island/garden trespassers will discover. Some gods are just plain evil (others are chaotic evil) whilst others may need some convincing that the invaders of their pleasurable resort aren't there for the purposes of thieving, destruction and pillaging.
There are orders of Fossarian Knights and Ghostly Knights, there are Dark gods, Dark god's servants and Champions, Dark god's Temples, special areas and places of intense evil. There are also gods of every alignment you can think of (and others you probably can't), there are tributes in one form or another of deities from all over the known World, there are tales both Dark and Light of ancient and modern vintage, in fact the Island of Lopan and its wondrous Garden is a multi-complex metropolis of gods good, bad, nice, evil, ancient, past and present. It is a fantasy campaign on its own. It is an enigma.
And then there is the Black Pit!
I cannot give out much information about the Black Pit because it is somewhere that may not be real. It may be a fantasy that only exists in the nightmares of thousands, it may be the boogey-man of the island, spoken about in soft, quiet tones, whispered to growing children to keep them away from a possibly dangerous area. It may be an adventure waiting to be explored but it may be a Red Herring - gods know that anyone who say they have been close to it are convinced it smells like a Dead Herring, Red or otherwise. There's only one way to find out, but if you are going to look for it ensure you have willed your remaining belongings to your favoured kin before you set out, just in case it really does exist.
GARDEN of the GODS is possibly the best World Sourcebook for PALLADIUM's FANTASY RPG to have been published and launched in a long while. It is 224 black & white pages sandwiched between cover-to-cover glossy colour card, and carries the low price of just $26.99, which for so many pages in today's world of printed and published fantasy game literature is a very decent price.
For players looking for a totally new experience from Dungeons & Dragons, RuneQuest, or any of the multitude of fantasy role-playing games available then Palladium RPG is a capital choice as an alternative.