I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER won a really big award

September 27th, 2016

meliesSo over the weekend I announced that I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER had one the Silver Melies award at the Strasbourg film festival, which I and many of you thought was awesome, but it turns out that I was grossly underestimating it’s actual awesomeness. The Olympics have trained me to think of Silver as second place, but looking into the award I have learned the truth: the Silver Melies is Strasbourg’s top prize for international films. The top prize. First place. That’s a big honkin’ deal.

But there’s more: there are a whole bunch of European film festivals that have a Silver Melies, and throughout the season they give them to their favorite films, and winning one means that you are eligible for the Golden Melies: the straight-up Best Film in Europe prize, awarded by the European Fantastic Film Festivals Federation. This year that prize will be awarded at the Lund International Fantastic Film Festival in Sweden, coming up in just a few weeks. So basically, I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER is now on the short list for one of the biggest honors European film has to offer.

Billy and the rest of the cast and crew did an amazing job with this movie, and I’m delighted that they’re being recognized for it. If you haven’t had a chance to see it yet, do it! It’s opening on new screens all the time, so it might be at a theater in your area, and if it’s not it’s still and always available on VOD.

Who Wants to Win an Advance Copy of My Next Book?

September 16th, 2016

imageMy newest book is called EXTREME MAKEOVER, a standalone novel about cloning, greed, and the beauty industry. It comes out in November, and I honestly think it’s the best SF I’ve ever written.

And I want to give you a free copy of it.

Here’s how it works:

1. EXTREME MAKEOVER is about a beauty company that accidentally creates a hand lotion that can overwrite your DNA. To help get us all in the festive spirit of cloning, I want to see your doppelgangers: people who look like you, or have the same name as you, or showed up in the same outfit as you, or whatever. Take the theme of “I am not the only me” and run with it.

2. Post a pocture of you and your copy on social media, along with a quick blurb or comment. These can be serious, funny, random–this is all for fun, remember–but the closer the resemblance the better. Bonus points for creativity, for making me laugh, and for tragically hilarious schadenfreude.

3. Use the hashtags #ExtremeMakeover and/or #NewYew, and tag me on one of these four platforms:
Twitter: @TheDanWells
Tumblr: @TheDanWells
Facebook: The Dan Wells
Instagram: @authordanwells

4. You have two weeks! I shall choose a bunch of winners at the end of September, and send you a signed book totally for free! I’ll even send a couple outside of the Us, so if you’re in Germany or Argentina or anywhere else, feel free to join in!

As an example, here’s a picture of me next to a picture of actor and personal trainer Dan Wells, holding a book written by Dan Wells and dedicated to Dan Wells. Which is which, and who is who? I can’t even tell anymore.

imageimage

Come Watch I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER With Me!

September 6th, 2016

My movie is coming to Utah this Friday! It opens at Jordan Commons and runs twice a night, 7pm and 10pm.

This weekend, on both Friday and Saturday, I will be there at 7pm for a special event: we’ll watch it together, and do a little Q&A afterward. If you want to see the film, this is absolutely the best way to do it.

Buy your tickets now!

NOTE! The website lists it as an R rating, but that’s a misprint. We’re working on getting it fixed.

See I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER on the big screen!

August 22nd, 2016

I-Am-Not-a-Serial-Killer-official-posterThe time has come!

(Updated 8/26/16)

I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER, based on my book and starring Christopher Lloyd, Max Records, and Laura Fraser, comes out this weekend. This weekend! I can’t even tell you how long I’ve been waiting for this day. Actually I totally can: it was June of 2009 when I first got the email from Billy O’Brien, the amazing director, telling me he loved the story and asking if the rights were available. I still have the letter; here’s a snip from the first paragraph:

“I like John. I believe in him. It reminded me of my teenage years, not that I feared I would be a serial killer, but that the world around me was juddering and that I needed something to hold on to until it steadied again.”

That sentence, more than anything else, was why I said yes–because I knew that Billy saw the story behind the story, and that he loved it for the same reasons I do. It’s a murder mystery, and a horror story, and a coming-of-age story, and a very dark comedy, but mostly it’s a story about a boy trying to hold himself together in a world we can’t understand. Very few of us (I assume) have been hunted by ageless beasts who prey on the fringes of society. But all of us can relate to John Cleaver.

So enough talking: where can you see the movie? You have three choices: theater releases, one-night big-screen events, and VOD. As an indie film, the theater engagements start off fairly small, and your support is key. The more you see it, the more you talk about it, the more you call your local theaters and demand that they talk to IFC and request it, the more the movie will spread. We need to get the word out, and drum up support, and vote with our dollars. Little indie movies compete with the big boys all the time, but only when they have an army of fans to back them up. You are my army of fans. Let’s make this happen.

Opening Dates for Theater Releases
August 26:
Arena Cinema, Hollywood, CA
IFC Center, New York, NY

September 2:
Cine-Rama, Chattanooga, TN
Gateway Film Center, Columbus, OH
O Cinema Wynwood, Miama, FL
Screenland Armour Theatre, North Kansas City, MO
Alamo Drafthouse, Yonkers, NY
Coolidge Corner Theater, Brookline, MA
Chalmette Cinemas 9, Chalmette, LA

September 9:
Celebration Cinema, Grand Rapids, MI
Jordan Commons Megaplex, Salt Lake City, UT
Zinema 2, Duluth, MN

September 16:
PFS Theater at the Roxy, Philadelphia, PA
Mall of America 14, Minneapolis, MN

September 20:
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, Winchester, VA

September 23:
Guild Cinema, Albuquerque, NM

October 21:
Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar, Austin, TX

If you want to check for local showings in your area, just to be sure, try GoWatchIt.com

Festivals and Events
September 2:
I will host a special screening of the film at DragonCon, in Atlanta, GA.
5:30 PM, in Hyatt International North.
I will be there to introduce it and host a Q&A. Bring all your friends! (Though they will all need a DragonCon badge to get in.)

September 9 and 10:
I will host two screenings of the film in Salt Lake City, Utah, at 7pm both nights.
Jordan Commons Megaplex.
Buy tickets here.

Video On Demand
The absolute best way to see this movie is on a big screen, but you can also download it starting August 26 from pretty much any streaming content provider. Please note that the movie is currently available for rent only; it won’t be purchasable for a few months at least.
Amazon
iTunes
Google Play
Vudu
Playstation
Xbox
Xfinity on Demand
And more!

If you want to help this movie, do these three things
1) Tell everyone you know. Rave about the book, show them the trailers, and tell them about the incredible buzz the movie has from its early reviews–especially for Chrisopher Lloyd. One of our SXSW reviewers said that the movie “reminds us why Christopher Lloyd is a national treasure.” Don’t you want to see that? I want to see that. And so do all your friends, so make sure they know about it.
2) If you’re near one of the theaters on the list above, go see it there. Take all your friends. Go seven times. Money talks, and a movie that makes money in a limited release will slowly and powerfully spread out across the world.
3) Download it through VOD. Download it even if you’ve already seen it, or even if you plan to see it elsewhere, or even if horror movies are too scary you don’t dare watch it–download it anyway. Vote with your dollars and your clicks.

Please Note: I do not currently have any information for non-US screenings or VOD. I’ve been contacted by a few different international distributors, and I’m planning some neat stuff with some of them (Australia is ON TOP OF IT), but I don’t have a complete list of countries where it will be available, and I don’t know dates. I will add that info here as I collect it, and I will broadcast it through social media, but for now just remember that I haven’t forgotten you :)

Bonus Content for Writing Excuses

August 17th, 2016

So: Writing Excuses records more episodes than we can afford to produce.

Writing Excuses

You may have noticed, about a year-and-a-half ago, that the audio quality of our episodes shot way up–that’s because we stopped just posting them with a little cleanup, and started paying an actual audio engineer to make them awesome. So now they’re awesome, but that level of quality costs money, and that’s where you come in. We’re no longer ad-supported, so all our pay-the-audio-person money comes from you, through Patreon. Help us get up $1500/month, and we have a great big backlog of bonus episodes that we’re ready and waiting to pour down on your heads.

Most of these guest episodes come from conventions: awesome guest host, amazing interviews with authors and editors and poets, and sometimes just fascinating talks with subject matter experts who can give us a cool new perspective on a thing we don’t know about. We’re currently sitting on some amazing stuff from GenCon and the World Horror Convention, and we have more in the pipeline. These don’t fit into our regular schedule, and thus not into our regular budget, either, hence this plea for your support. We had slated these bonus episodes for the $3000 level, but they’re too good to hold on to, so we’ve found a way to pinch some pennies and get them out to you early. Please note that the episodes will always be free, just like all of our episodes: Patreon subscribers will get them early, but everyone will get them a few weeks later with no restrictions. Writing is for everyone, whether they can afford cool classes or not. So if you have a little extra cash, consider helping us bring out this content at a high level of audio quality.

Of course, if you are a Patreon supporter, we do have a few extra perks to throw your way. Our current perk is a brilliant piece of writing from Mary Robinette Kowal: Conan the Barbarian, as written by Jane Austen. Yeah. You don’t want to miss it. We put out little tidbits like this every two weeks, so check them out.

Support Writing Excuses on Patreon today, and get some super cool stuff, and help us produce these sweet bonus episodes. Thank you!

Let’s Talk About Some Recent Games

August 12th, 2016

I just got back from GenCon, which means I played a ton of new games, and a ton of old games, and it’s been a while since I talked about games so I have a big backlog of game thoughts in general. Here we go!

Games I played/bought/saw at GenCon

SeaFall
This was the number one game I wanted to pick up at GenCon…and it sold out before the doors even opened on day one, so boo. No early SeaFall for me. It comes out in October-ish, so I’ll pick it up then.

Legendary Encounters: Firefly
Legendary is my favorite deck-builder game, by a mile, and though the base system is designed for Marvel superheroes, there are also four “Encounters” games that expand it into cool SF properties, all fully compatible with the base game and each other. First was the Alien and Predator, and now we have Firefly (and Big Trouble in Little China, I guess, but meh). Firefly is an amazing addition to the line: it really feels super Firefly-ish, in a deep and satisfying way, but it does so at the expense of some cross-compatibility, which is too bad. It’s still integratable with the other sets–you could toss out one of the crew and add in Spider-man, for example, and it would still work–but the transition isn’t as smooth as, say, playing through Aliens with the Avengers (or the Predators!) instead of Ripley and Hicks. Still, though, it’s an absolute blast, and probably my favorite of the Encounters games. Great stuff.
EDIT: Yes, the art in the game is awful. The art in ALL of the Encounters games is awful. I assume there’s a good reason to use original illustrations instead of movie stills, and I assume that reason is money, but the games are ugly because of it, and this is the ugliest. If that’s a deal-breaker for you, well, you’re missing out on a great game, but maybe Upper Deck will finally get the hint?

Legendary: Civil War
Yes, I got two Legendary games: it’s really good, dudes and ladies. Civil War works better for me than last year’s big Legendary release, presumably because I’m more familiar with the Civil War storyline than with Secret Wars, plus it has some really great new additions, like the pet sidekicks and the grievous wounds and similar fun stuff that you can shuffle into your base game. Plus we finally get Luke Cage as a playable character, so I can play the New Avengers and the Secret Avengers and all that good stuff. I can’t help but be disappointed overall, though, because this was supposed to be the expansion that gave us team-based head-to-head play, and it didn’t. Bah! That would have been so cool! Maybe they’ll get around to eventually? I don’t know? I’m super bummed, though.

Mansions of Madness Second Edition
I loved the first edition of Mansions of Madness, for about seven or eight plays, and then the balance problems became too obvious to ignore, and eventually the inconsistency in scenario design–and the gargantuan setup time–eventually killed it for me. I packed it away and haven’t played in five or six years, completely ignoring the two expansions. The Second Edition does away with the balance problem and the setup problem by replacing the evil mastermind player (or whatever it was called) with an app. The app runs the setup, the combat, the clues, the narrative, the whole thing. A lot of people are understably leery of this, but in practice it works really well: the games get started quickly, the story unfolds in a more fluid and mysterious way, and the scenarios are randomized in a way that maintains a consistent story while still making each play-through unique. Even better, a hard scenario just feels like a hard scenario, not an “unbalanced” one, because all of the humans are on the same team. It’s even fully compatible with all the first edition stuff you bought before, which is a nice touch. It’s entirely possible that the same inconsistency problems that plagued the first edition will pop up as we play it more (ie, some clues required you to run toward danger, and some required you to run away from it, with no clear way of knowing which was which), but I’m hoping that the intervening years and two expansions’ worth of experience have helped them solve that issue. I guess time will tell.

The Siege of Annuminas
The Lord of the Rings LCG is my favorite customizable card game these days, so I joined some friends to play through this new scenario and it KICKED OUR BUTTS. The Siege of Annuminas is an Epic scenario: you can play it with one group of 1-4 players, or you can play the Epic version with three groups of 1-4 players each, all working on different parts of the same goal. My group was tasked with defending the walls, and our most experienced player–my friend Alan Bahr–lost two characters literally in the first turn, and was out of the game completely on the second. If you haven’t played before, let me assure you: that’s not supposed to happen. This scenario is brutal, and even one misstep–even from a different team in a different part of the war–can destroy you. I love a challenge, though, and I look forward to finally beating this one into submission.

New Angeles
This was a newly announced game that Fantasy Flight was demoing, and is not yet for sale, but I got to play through several turns and I loved it. It’s based in the Android universe, like Netrunner, but it shifts the focus from hacking to megacorp negotiations. Each player takes the role of a massive company (I played my favorite, the blatantly evil Weyland), and then they have to work together to solve problems and improve the city of New Angeles, but always trying to do so in a way that helps your company more than anyone else. It’s an incredibly social game, structured such that everyone always has something to do and something to pay attention to and some meaningful way of influencing the outcome no matter whose turn it is. Good stuff, and a first day purchase when it gets released.

Black Orchestra
This is a Philip DuBarry design (one of my favorite designers) from Game Salute, and it’s a co-op about assassinating Hitler; it’s not released yet, and they didn’t even have demos running, but I got to look through the sample copy and it looks great. “The Black Orchestra” is the “Schwarze Kapelle,” which was the S.S. nickname for the actual historical group that tried to assassinate Hitler, and the players each play the role of one of these real people–the character cards include bios, and in a chilling historical detail every bio ends with either a suicide or an execution. This is not a light-hearted game, but it looks like a very tense and strategic one, with deep roots in historical research and accuracy. I’ll need to see some gameplay reviews once it finally comes out, but I have very high hopes.

Star Trek: Ascendancy
Another game I demo-ed, but in this case it was available for purchase and I chose not to buy it. It was actually an awesome space game, kind of 4X-ish, with some clever mechanics and some cool ideas and great bits, but it had the same problem I have with every Star Trek game: it just doesn’t feel like Star Trek. Star Trek is about exploration and problem-solving; it’s about ideas. Ascendancy is about combat, and I can get plenty of that in other properties. Someone please give me a good Star Trek game! Fleet Captains does the best so far, but even that’s a stretch. I guess this is what roleplaying games are for. Come to think of it, what I really want is an app-driven mystery game, a la Mansions of Madness, in the Star Trek universe. I would spend SO MUCH MONEY on that.

Dead of Winter: The Long Night
I love co-op games, and I especailly love co-op games with a traitor, and Dead of Winter basically rules that category in untouchable splendor. The new expansion (technically a stand-alone companion game) adds some awesome stuff to it, and I’m very excited to try it, but I haven’t actually gotten it on the table yet because Mansions of Madness keeps grabbing us. Soon.

Warmachine/Hordes
My biggest expense of GenCon was my decision to update my four factions (plus my brother’s Menoth) to the third edition rules. I’ve basially been out of the game since my primary opponent Zach Hill passed away several months ago, and it became sad to try to play without him, but I figured it was time to move on and get back into it, which meant acquainting myself with all of the changes in Mark III. Overall, I like them a lot. My two main factions are Retribution (which is a POWERHOUSE under the new rules) and Khador (which got some weird rebalances but overall some very nice stuff). Most notable: Retribution can finally run multiple warjacks effectively, which allows our awesome ‘jacks to shine, and my personal favorite unit the Khadoran Man-o-Wars got the buffs they needed to become a viable threat. I also play Legion of Everblight (which made Proteus awesome!) and Circle Orboros (which got some weird nerfs but is now The Heavy Warbeast Faction), and overall I’m pretty happy. Now I just need to, you know, actually play.

Infinity: Corvus Belli
As much as I love Warmachine and Hordes, Infinity is hands-down the best skirmish game for tabletop miniatures, and I picked up the new Miyamoto Musashi model at GenCon. I’m excited to get him on the table with my Nomads. If you love minis games and you’re looking for a relatively cheap one, with a truly phenomenal ruleset, give Infinity a try.

Games I didn’t play or buy at GenCon, but I want to talk about them anyway

X-Wing
As long as we’re talking about minis games, I’ll point out that I didn’t buy any of the new X-Wing stuff. Most of it’s just ugly or boring, frankly, and the ships from the Rebels TV show don’t look like they belong in the same universe as the others. I like the Protectorate starfighter, and I might pick one up eventually, but I’ll wait until Wave 10, for the Quadjumper and the Upsilon shuttle. If I played competitively, I’m sure the new stuff would hold more interest, but as a casual player I’m content to stick with the stuff that looks cool and feels familiar–the stuff that feels like Star Wars, basically.

Sushi-Go and Sushi-Go Party
Sushi-Go is basically “7 Wonders Lite,” and in that niche it’s become a family favorite that I can play with my kids anytime and anywhere. There’s no setup time, it’s super portable, and it’s simultaneously deep and cute, in a way that everyone from my 4yo to my 14yo can play it with me, all in a big group, and all enjoy it at the same time. Sushi-Go Party looks awesome on the surface–more of the stuff you loved, only bigger and better!–but in practice it’s just a bunch of added hassle without a comensurate addition of fun. If we’re going to take the time to set up decks and choose card types and all of that nonsense, we’ll just play 7 Wonders.

Hoagie
Another play-with-the-kids game, Hoagie is actually super fun. It’s a card game where each player is trying to build a sandwich, but the other players keep rotting your ingredients. There’s not much else to say, except that this has become one of our go-to travel games.

Mysterium
Yes, I know, this one’s been out since LAST GenCon, but I didn’t get it until a month ago. I wish I’d listened to everybody and picked it up earlier, because it’s super fun. One player is a ghost, who gives the other players visions (giant cards with crazy art on them), trying to get them to correctly identify a murder suspect, a location, and a weapon. One fun thing I learned with this game: my 9yo’s brain works in exactly the same way mine does. I can give my other kids a bunch of super-obvious clues, and watch them stumble around like morons, but my 9yo can look at a bizarre, esoteric nonsense clue and instantly see what I need her to see. It’s kind of hilarious. Of course, my 14yo and 13yo are the same way with each other in Codenames, so it all evens out.

Shoot Your Friends
This game promises chaos, and delivers even more of it than you’re expecting. It’s a card game with no turns, played in real time, where you’re trying to build sets both for you and your opponents; a player who has a set can booth shoot and be shot, so sometimes you’ll want to build them up and sometimes you’ll want to destroy them to protect yourself. My 13yo and his friends freaking love this game, though they had to apply a bunch of house rules to help constrain the madness a little. Plus it comes with an awesome toy gun :)

Among Nobles
I kickstarted this game last year, and I love it, and I don’t think I’ve ever talked about it. Short version: I love it. Long version: it’s a bloodline game, which is one of my pet subgenres (ie, a game where you play not with one set of characters, but with successive generations of characters over time, building a giant family). Among Nobles is kind of loosely War of the Roses-based, though it’s fairly a-historical because the characters all show up out of order, based on how you draw them. You have children, and arrange marriages with other players’ children; each character has access to different actions (war, piety, intrigue, commerce, etc.), but you take actions based on couples, not individuals, so arranging ideal marriages with good action sets is key. It’s awesome.

Trash War
Another card game, and a really unique one at that. The players are in a junkyard, or possibly a post-apocalyptic wasteland filled with junk–either way, there’s a a lot of junk–and they takes turns chucking it at each other. You have walls, and as junk builds up on them they collapse and fall over, but you can burn the trash away to help keep your walls standing. One clever touch is that there is no standard turn order: the first player throws trash at whoever she wants, and then that player throws trash at whoever he wants, and so on and so on, volleying the ball, so to speak. It’s a light filler, but a fun one.

TMNT DiceMasters
I managed to steer clear of this one (“collectible” and “deck-building” are two of my trigger words for dangerous obsession), but then they came out with a TMNT set and my resistance crumbled. I wish it worked better for multiplayer, but as a two-player strategy game I really like it. It’s dice rather than cards, so you’re not building a deck but a dice bag, but the little dice really do feel like superhero characters, and the game moves fast and has a lot of strategy. It’s like a mashup of Quarriors and Magic: The Gathering, which doesn’t sound like it would work but it totally does.

Bears!
One more dice game. This one’s a little filler game I picked up for a family camp in Yellowstone, and it was a pretty big hit. You roll a bunch of Camp dice, which will be either bears or tents, and then you roll the Camper dice, which will be either shooting or running or sleeping. You can reroll your Camper dice as much as you want, and everyone matches up dice in a big free-for all, and the game ends when either all the tents or all the bears are matched up. You get the most points for sleepers in tents, but if the game ends and there are still bears roaming free, all the sleepers get eaten and lose points instead. It’s a humorously grisly theme with more depth than you expect, and we had a lot of fun with it.

This is but a tiny fraction of the game reviews I need to write, but this is already five pages long. Time to stop…for now….

Limited Editions with Vault Books

July 19th, 2016

I have a big announcement: the new specialty press Vault Books is launching today, and their opening salvo of titles includes two from me! I’m super psyched. These books are going to be gorgeous.

The Clayton Killer: The John Cleaver Omnibus Volume 1
The first trilogy of John Cleaver books, collected in one volume. This will include a foreword by V.E. Schwab and both cover and interior art by Daniel Serra. I’ve been involved with the press at every step of the planning, helping to choose the best people, the best paper, the best everything, and I promise you that this book is going to be perversely beautiful. We’re talking heirloom quality, signed and numbered, with a slip case and leather binding and the whole nine yards. It will also have a brand new John Cleaver short story that has never appeared anywhere else. For fans of John Cleaver this will be worth every penny.

A Night of Blacker Darkness
My historical vampire farce, for the first time ever in print in English. It’s been a hit in ebook and in audio, and now at last you can buy it in a stupidly awesome print version. This will come in three editions: a regular (but amazing) trade hardback, a limited edition with leather binding, and a super-limited edition with extra art and some other fun surprises. All three editions will contain a novella set in the same world, called A Pear-Shaped Funeral, and a foreword from one of the book’s biggest fans, a plucky young fellow named Brandon Sanderson. If you love historical vampire farces–and who doesn’t?–buy this now for you and all your loved ones.

Oh, and did I forget to mention this one?

Shared Nightmares
Vault Books is also reprinting this horror anthology, containing what I consider to be my best short fiction writing to date. All the stories are about dreams and nightmares, and my story “Health and Wellness” is about a young man who suddenly gains the ability to remember all his dreams with perfect crystal clarity.

All of these books, and everything else on their lineup, will be fantastic. Did I mention they’re doing a short story collection by Mercedes Yardley? Because they totally are, and it looks jaw-dropping. Go forth and pre-order.

Social Justice Bard

July 8th, 2016

I am not a Social Justice Warrior, because I am not warrior. Sometimes I think I’d like to be, and there may come a day when I get forced onto the front lines, but for now I’m not. Most of us aren’t.

But I can be a Social Justice Bard.

I can write stories that inspire the warriors. I can tell dramatic tales of problems and dangers and awful injustice, and glorify the heroes that overcome them. I can write books about awesome women, and I can push my publishers to get black and latino faces on the covers, and I can post aricle after article and even edit anthologies about mental illness and how to see and treat everyone as a person. I can stand up for my friends, even when they do something stupid, and I can wear my religion proudly, even when people attack it, and I can raise my children to love and respect everyone, even when they disagree with them and even when they don’t have to. I can present a better world in fiction, and maybe help create a new generation of warriors who will fight to make that fiction a reality.

I watch the world, and the things people are doing to each other, and the way people talk to each other–or maybe just at each other–and I want it to change. I want the world to be as wonderful as it is in my dreams. So I’m going to take those dreams, and I’m going to write them down, and every time there’s another shooting or bombing or battle or argument or anything at all, I’m going to write that much harder. I’m going to tell more stories. And maybe the warriors will read it in some dark hour, and their spirits will lift up, and they’ll get back into the fight. Because that’s what bards do.

We sing the songs of glory, and help make the world more glorious.

ONES AND ZEROES cover reveal

July 1st, 2016

I love this cover, and I want to talk all about it, but let’s start with the good stuff: the actual cover.

Behold it’s glory:

image

ONES AND ZEROES is the sequel to BLUESCREEN, and the second book in the Mirador series. It continues the story from the first one, but it’s designed to stand on its own. Here’s the pitch from the publisher:

Overworld. It’s more than just the world’s most popular e-sport—for thousands of VR teams around the globe, Overworld is life. It means fame and fortune, or maybe it’s a ticket out of obscurity or poverty. If you have a connection to the internet and four friends you trust with your life, anything is possible.

Marisa Carneseca is on the hunt for a mysterious hacker named Grendel when she receives word that her amateur Overworld team has been invited to Forward Motion, one of the most exclusive tournaments of the year. For Marisa, this could mean everything—a chance to finally go pro and to help her family, stuck in an LA neighborhood on the wrong side of the growing divide between the rich and the poor. But Forward Motion turns out to be more than it seems—rife with corruption, infighting, and danger—and Marisa runs headlong into Alain Bensoussan, a beautiful, dangerous underground freedom fighter who reveals to her the darker side of the forces behind the tournament. It soon becomes clear that, in this game, winning might be the only way to get out alive.

With most of my books I don’t get any real input on the covers–most authors don’t–but on the Mirador series I’ve been involved at every level. I suggested basic looks and layouts; I helped select the models for the photo shoots, and the actual photos we ended up using; I submitted reference art of cyberpunk cityscapes, and reference photos of LA; I sent notes back and forth of what the clothes and the robots and Marisa’s arm should look like. I’m not claiming credit for the outcome–that all belongs with Michelle Taormina and Sebastian Hue–I’m just letting you know that this cover is as close to my own personal vision of the series as I could make it.

One of the interesting puzzles for us, with BLUESCREEN’s cover, was that cyberpunk cities are traditionally dark and vertical, but LA is wide and flat and sunny. We chose to go with a cover that ‘felt’ cyberpunk-y, full of giant skyscrapers and narrow streets at the bottom of deep steel canyons, because that was the best way of announcing exactly what kind of book it was. With ONES AND ZEROES we had the chance to show a little more of what I imagine when I write the books: low buildings with paint and brick, bright sunsets and palm trees, and storefronts full of neon and holograms and advertisements in a dozen different languages. BLUESCREEN’s cover was cyberpunk in general, but ONES AND ZEROES is unique to Mirador.

One more quick note about the people on the cover: Marisa’s in the middle, obviously, with her best friend Sahara on the side (and Cameron and Camilla, the everpresent camera nulis, hovering behind her). The other character is new to this book: Alain Bensoussan. Some call him a freedom fighter, others call him a terrorist; pretty much everyone calls him a criminal. Finding out what he wants, and how far he’s willing to go to get it, is a journey you’ll have to take along with Marisa.

ONES AND ZEROES comes out on February 14. Blink on your djinni to set an alarm, and I’ll see you in Overworld.

The Big Massive Guide to Rifts

May 12th, 2016

Way back in the day, I used to run a game review website called The Time-Waster’s Guide. We covered games of every kind, from board games to card games to roleplaying games and everything in between, and we counted among our contributors such luminaries as a pre-publication Brandon Sanderson (who wrote under the pen name Evil Undead Overlord, or EUOL). With the current Kickstarter campaign for Savage Worlds Rifts, I’ve been thinking a lot about this old site, because I am a Rifts FANATIC. It’s not my favorite roleplaying system, but it is my favorite roleplaying setting, hands down, no questions asked. I love Rifts, and I want everyone to love it, so I’m reprinting (and slightly updating) some of my old articles about it. This article will serve as the central tentpole, with links to the others: it’s a big massive guide to everything Rifts, including what it is, what it includes, and how to break down the grand abundance of available books (82, at current count) into good entry points and playable subsets. If you’ve ever wanted to know what Rifts is, or if you’ve bought into the Savage Rifts Kickstarter and want to know what other resources are available, this is the article for you.

(Please note that I don’t always group things the same way Palladium does, so if something is called, say, a World Book, but is obviously a sourcebook, I’ll put it with the sourcebooks.)

Table of Contents
Core Books
Sourcebooks
Conversion Books
World Books
Dimension Books
Adventure Supplements
Getting Started

Core Books

Savage RiftsKickstarter
This is a new edition of the game that adapts the stories, ideas, and world info into the (way more accessible and playable) Savage Worlds ruleset; if they pull it off, it will be the best of both worlds. Definitely pick this up, and then even with a different ruleset you can pick up any of the original Rifts books and use their copious amounts of brilliant storytelling in your game, with a little adaptation and elbow grease of your own.

Rifts Roleplaying Game Ultimate Edition
My review of the first edition, and my review of the Ultimate edition, which is a huge improvement. If you’re going the Savage Rifts route you technically dont need this, or really any of the Core Books, but they’re beautiful and I recommend them highly.

Rifts Gamemaster Guide
A compilation of almost every skill, map, vehicle, robot, psychic power, and piece of equipment ever printed in a Rifts book. You don’t need it to play, but you’ll want it.

Rifts Book of Magic
Does for magic what the Gamemaster Guide does for everything else. Any campaign that includes magic (and a good Rifts campaign should) will make heavy use of this book.

Rifts Bionics Sourcebook
The third of the compilations: all of the bionics and cybernetics from previous Rifts books, reprinted in a single volume. There’s also a fantastic update of the cyberpunkish City Rat character class. Not as sweepingly useful as the others Core Books, but much cheaper.

Rifts Adventure Guide
The first half contains some of the best GM information I’ve ever read, with specific and useful tips on how to build NPCs, adventures, and campaigns. The second half is not quite as good, but very handy for someone new to the setting–they go into a lot of world detail for North America, and give a lot of adventure ideas.

Rifts Aftermath
Though intended as a capstone to the Coalition Wars series (which we’ll get to later), Aftermath has a much wider use. It updates all of the world info to incorporate the events that unfolded in prior books–in other words, it gives a comprehensive overview of the politics and conditions of the known world, all in one book. If you’re going to travel around and don’t want to buy a huge pile of world books, get this one. Also: there is virtually no rules-based info in here, just pure story and background, so Savage Rifts players can use it with zero conversion necessary.

Sourcebooks

Rifts Sourcebook One, Revised
When Rifts first came out, this was a great follow-up full of juicy little bits of unrelated rules and monsters and world info; today, it’s mostly obsolete. The only can’t-miss section of the book is ARCHIE, an important and compelling AI villain, and you can arguably get all the info you need on him (maybe, kind of) from Shemarrian Nation. Everything else you can mostly get from the Gamemaster Guide.

Shemarrian Nation
A hyper-detailed look at a major villain force in eastern North America. Fantastic if you’re playing in that part of the world, skippable otherwise.

Rifts Sourcebook 3: Mindwerks
A companion to the mainland Europe world book, this book details the evil organization known as Mindwerks and gives some good stats for cyber-psionic devices. Get it if you’re playing in Europe, otherwise you can do without it.

Rifts Sourcebook 4: Coalition Navy
The Coalition is the biggest faction in North America–a group of technologically superior human supremacists. This is their navy. If you plan to do a lot of ocean-based adventures this is fairly useful, but if not then forget it.

Rifts Mercenaries
I’ve never seen a use for this book–it doesn’t add to the storyline, give any significant world info, or present anything important enough to be referenced in other books. Spend your money on cooler stuff.

MercTown
An incredibly detailed description of a bustling frontier town that has a little bit of everything. A fantastic hub from which to base a campaign, in relatively easy reach of all the major movers and shakers in North America.

MercOps
The companion to MercTown: that book has all the setting info, and this one has the story info.

Rifts Vampires
A closer look at one of Rifts’ most popular villain group. If you want to play in a vampire campaign, Vampire Kingdoms and Arzno should both come first, and then maybe New West. After that, if you’re still looking for more, this book’s got your back.

Rifts Black Market
The Black Market in Rifts Earth is not just a way to buy things illegally, it’s an actual organization, which is weird but there you go. This book goes a long way toward fleshing it out, but it doesn’t really scream Buy Me Now.

D-Bees of North America
“D-Bee” is shorthand for “Dimensional Being,” and refers to pretty much anyone non-human. This book is kind of like a monster manual for player races. Flavorful and cool, but potentially unbalancing. If someone wanted to play a non-human, this is the first place I’d send them.

Conversion Books

Rifts Conversion Book One, Revised
Primarily useful only to Palladium superfans who want to bring characters and powers from other Palladium games (Palladium Fantasy, Robotech, Heroes Unlimited, etc.) into the world of Rifts. Most games would be better off without this book to complicate things for them, but the races are pretty handy and the variety is excellent for people who really want it. If all you need is player races I’d get D-Bees of North America first.

Rifts Dark Conversions
Demons, witches, monsters, Nightbane (another Palladium game), etc., etc. Just like the above, but focusing on monsters and bad guys. The Nightbane section presents an intriguing alternate setting for Rifts Earth, if you want to blow your players’ minds.

Pantheons of the Megaverse
A handful of good ideas and a truckful of wacky crap you’ll never use. Even if you want to use gods in your campaign, you can do better than this.

World Books

Vampire Kingdoms
A unique look at vampires, especially given that they live in northern Mexico. If you don’t want vampires in your game, leave this book on the shelf. It does have some excellent city descriptions, though, and it’s absolutely overflowing with cool vampire hunting ideas and options. A foundational touchstone to the game as a whole.

Atlantis
Still one of the best world books, Atlantis has info on the Splugorth and their many minions: interdimensional slavers out to take over the megaverse. Definitely a weird book (take a gander at the Metzla, for example), but it has a lot of great villains and evil henchmen, and the section on bio-wizardry is very cool. Probably worth buying for the magic tattoos alone.

England
A weak entry in the line. The druids and the mystic herbology is neat, but the actual world info is pretty lame–combine what you know about Rifts (alien intelligences control everything) with what you know about British legend (King Arthur is cool), and you’ve got the unimaginative premise of this book. I need say nothing further.

Africa
Almost universally considered the worst world book in the game. To be fair: what’s here is good, but most of the info is about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and almost none of it is about Africa itself. It’s criminal to reduce the entire continent to one book of unrelated stuff. Think of it as an adventure supplement and you’ll like it more.

Triax and the New German Republic
Practically a second main book, with all of the classes and equipment and world info to play a game based in mainland Europe. Very tech-heavy, but combined with Mindwerks it makes a great setting.

South America 1
A little on the wacky side, this book is a bit unfocused and suffers from too much power creep. Given the level of detail in other parts of the world, there’s not much reason to go here.

Underseas
One of my favorites, but considered by many to be one of the least useful. The sheer amount of info in here is staggering, and the concepts are very original and intriguing, but if you’re not going to play an ocean-based game then it’s almost completely useless. One of the only game settings I know of where you can play a Humpback Whale with magical whale songs.

Japan
This one always felt a little rushed, but it does manage to present a lot of great ideas. The character classes are incredibly cool, the cybernetics are neat, and the various nations provide a pretty good setting for adventure. This part of the world needs more information (the China books help), but it’s playable as it is and very cool.

South America 2
More power creep, but this time in the company of some interesting ideas. You could do worse, but you could still do a whole lot better.

Coalition War Campaign
A highly detailed new look at the Coalition, the number one villain/hero/nation in North America, who continue to be a very interesting villain as well as a fascinating player character option. Plenty of gadgets for the tech-head, and a good book overall if you’re playing in North America.

Psyscape
Focused enough that it’s almost an adventure book. Has some good ideas and some cool new psychic options, but not one I’d go out of my way to pick up.

Lone Star
Lone Star is the Coalition lab situated in what used to be Texas. The book is full of useful info on mutants, experiments, Coalition plans, and the massive non-Coalition area known as the Pecos Empire. Not bad.

New West
What do you know? The western U.S. in Rifts Earth is pretty much like the western U.S. in the mid-1860s, only with more monsters and cybernetics. A well-balanced book, all things considered.

Spirit West
The mystical (read: Native American) half of the New West. Not nearly as cool as it ought to be, and largely unnecessary. Probably offensive to many Native Americans as well, now that I think back on it. Oops.

The Federation of Magic
Details on the magic-intense part of North America known as the Magic Zone. Some cool new factions, some very cool new classes, and a lot of neat spells. If you already have the Rifts Book of Magic and you’re not using the North American setting, you don’t need this. The world info is pretty cool, though, and it’s one of my favorite covers in the series.

The Warlords of Russia
Another personal favorite. Russia is a feudal land ruled by clashing warlords and their bionic armies. The politics of the various warlords are pretty detailed and suggest a lot of great stories, though the area is of admittedly narrow use (if you don’t want to tangle with the warlords, there’s not much else to do).

Mystic Russia
The magical aspects of Russia. Not as good as its companion, but it’s nice to have both if you want to run a campaign in the region.

Australia
Australia is practically cut off from the rest of the world, which makes it hard to visit but gave the writers a chance to counteract some of the power creep in the rest of the series. It’s an interesting environment for a stand-alone campaign, but hard to work into a larger one.

Canada
You kind of get the impression that they made this book just because Canada didn’t have one yet. Aside from some forgettable rules about cold weather effects, and some very nice bionic classes, there’s nothing in here worth the trouble.

Splynn Dimensional Market
Splynn is the main city on Atlantis, and the marketplace is said to be the wildest in the megaverse. The book does a pretty good job of capturing the spirit and intrigue of a place where everything you could possibly imagine is bought and sold.

Xiticix Invasion
The Xiticix are yet another faction in the turbulent politics of North America, this time in the form of insectile alien invaders. A pretty good book, all things considered, though in truth it mostly functions as a limited Monster Manual for the western great lakes area.

China One
The Ten Hells of the Yama Kings have been rifted straight into China, and the warring factions of Chinese mythology have brought their battles and intrigues to Earth. Focusing solely on the bad guys, China One is not much use without the good guys in China Two.

China Two
With a fantastic selection of wise monks, powerful spirits, and mystic martial arts, China Two is truly the Rifts-ification of your favorite Kung Fu movies. For some excellent bonus Chinese mysticism see Mystic China, a Palladium non-Rifts book.

Dinosaur Swamp
The southeastern pocket of the former US has been destroyed and reclaimed by nature, including carnivorous plants and the titular dinosaurs. Mankind is just one more link in the food chain, and most people live in barbarian tribes or overgrown ruins. A cool place to visit, if you can think of a reason to do so.

Adventures in Dinosaur Swamp
Two whole books and its still not a super compelling setting. It’s a fun place to visit, but lacks any of the major nations or settlements that would make it viable as a long term hub for a major campaign.

Arzno
Another entry in the “American southwest vampires” region, this has become one of my favorite places to set a campaign, tied with MercTown. Super detailed and brimming with story and character.

Madhaven
Like the Dinosaur Swamp, the Manhattan region is fun to visit but will probably never work as a long-term setting. Even setting foot here drives people slowly and inevitably insane, so it’s kind of hard to use for more than a one-shot.

Triax 2
Alas, this is one of the few books I don’t own and can’t comment on. Sorry.

Lemuria
Alas, this is one of the few books I don’t own and can’t comment on. Sorry.

Northern Gun One
Alas, this is one of the few books I don’t own and can’t comment on. Sorry.

Northern Gun Two
Alas, this is one of the few books I don’t own and can’t comment on. Sorry.

Mutants in Orbit
This is only *kind of* a Rifts book, as it was originally intended as a supplement for a separate game line called After the Bomb, but it does include some conversion notes and represents the “canonical” depiction of near orbit around Rifts Earth. And it’s good stuff, it’s just purposefully difficult to cross paths with in any kind of standard Rifts campaign.

Dimension Books

Wormwood
A fascinating setting that is brilliantly–but only partially–conceived. A living planet with a dark medieval society and a parasite-based magic system. It’s so restrictive that you either have to play it as a standalone or change a lot of the background…most of the other Rifts books choose the latter whenever they reference it.

Skraypers
Kind of like a Rifts/aliens/outer space version of Heroes Unlimited, which means it’s redundant on multiple counts. Unlike Wormwood, no one ever references this one.

Phase World
Rifts in space. With sixexcellent companion books, Phase World is one of the better-supported settings in the Rifts line, probably second only to the eastern US. The same kind of stuff you get in normal Rifts (magic and technology interacting on a grand scale), but done as a space opera instead of a single planet.

Phase World Sourcebook
Some new aliens and equipment and stuff. Hardly necessary, even for a Phase World campaign, but pretty cool.

Anvil Galaxy
Some really good adventure hooks and world (er…I mean galaxy) info. Not quite as cool as the sourcebook, but slightly more useful.

Three Galaxies
A great source of adventure ideas and bad guys–probably the number two purchase for any Phase World campaign, right after the Phase World core book.

Megaverse Builder
A cool concept that doesn’t quite deliver: a system designed to create your own planets and dimensions. Still, it can be a valuable resource for the right campaign.

Naruni Wave 2
A catalog of weapons that are way too powerful, mixed with a bit of world info that, in the end, probably doesn’t justify buying the book.

Fleets of the Three Galaxies
Alas, this is one of the few books I don’t own and can’t comment on. Sorry.

Thundercloud Galaxy
Alas, this is one of the few books I don’t own and can’t comment on. Sorry.

Heroes of the Megaverse
This book is more of a fundraising boondoggle than anything else: an employee stole a bunch of money, the company was going under, and fans could pay money to save Palladium and get themselves put into a book. If you’re in here, you probably already have a copy, and if you’re not, this book will hold no interest for you.

Adventure Supplements
Heads up: I’m not really big on adventure supplements in general, so I’m probably rating a lot of these lower than they deserve.

Rifts Game Shield and Adventures
The game shield is handy if you like game shields, and the adventure info is pretty good.

Rifts Index and Adventures Volume 2
The adventure stuff is okay, but the index is woefully out of date. I’d skip it.

Rifts Adventure Sourcebook 1: Forbidden Knowledge
A bargain for some pretty impressive adventure hooks and info. The setting is the Chi-Town Burbs, which makes the decision easy: if you play in the burbs and need some cool ideas, here you go.

Rifts Adventure Sourcebook 2: Tolkeen Crisis
More expensive and not as good as the first one, but still fun. Skippable.

Rifts Adventure Sourcebook 3: The Black Vault
My least favorite of the four.

Rifts Adventure Sourcebook 4: The Vanguard
The Vanguard are one of my favorite organizations in the game. Great stuff.

Merc Adventure Sourcebook
Get MercTown and/or MercOps first. This one’s okay but unnecessary.

Mechanoids
Though officially classified as a sourcebook, this is an adventure supplement through and through. The Mechanoids make pretty cool bad guys, and the stats and tables are all easy to use. For such a small supplement, it has a pretty epic feel.

Juicer Uprising
Some new world info (it’s technically a world book, but we’re not fooled), and a heap of variants for the Juicer, one of Rifts’ signature classes. The brunt of the book is a series of adventures that take place in North America. Pretty good stuff, on the whole, and more specific than a lot of their adventure books.

Coalition Wars
The Coalition Wars series was basically a super-size adventure supplement, taking the characters through a giant war from start to finish and giving them enough info for a truly immense campaign. The war was waged between the Coalition, a group of high-tech human supremacists, and the city of Tolkeen, a magical metropolis that got a little too big for the Coalition’s liking. I’m not especially fond of this storyline, as I feel it’s too restrictive for the characters to really let loose and do epic deeds, but it has some very good ideas and could provide your group with enough information for years of adventures. The books are very similar to each other, mostly NPCs and adventure hooks, so I won’t go through each one.
* Free Quebec
Though technically a world book, this book is mostly designed as an intro to the Coalition Wars series. Much of what it established was altered by the war itself, so unless you plan to play through the war you’re probably fine just getting the updated info from Aftermath.
* Coalition Wars 1: Sedition
* Coalition Wars 2: CS Overkill
* Coalition Wars 3: The Sorcerer’s Revenge
* Coalition Wars 4: Cyber-Knights
* Coalition Wars 5: Shadows of Evil
* Coalition Wars 6: The Final Siege

The Minion War
These comprise another multi-book adventure supplement, chronicling a big pan-dimensional campaign in which the denizens of hell rise up and try to take over the megaverse. They only really function well if you’re a Palladium completionist, as they tie in almost all of the company’s other games into a single world-hopping storyline. I never really got into them, but that doesn’t make them bad.
* Hades: Pits of Hell
* Dyval: Hell Unleashed
* Dimensional Outbreak
* Megaverse in Flames

Getting Started

Wow! That’s a lot of books: 82, in fact, not counting the three new ones just announced for Savage Rifts. It can be incredibly daunting to try to figure out where to start, or how to condense all of that stuff down into a useable campaign, so I’ve made you a guide. Most of the books described above make an interesting setting to adventure in, but some of them work together to form larger, more cohesive settings ideal for big campaigns. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s enough to get you started. Consider all of these suggestions to be completely optional, and feel free to mix and match at will.

The Indispensables
Rifts Roleplaying Game: Ultimate Edition
Rifts Gamemaster Guide
Rifts Book of Magic
(optional: Aftermath, the Bionics Sourcebook, D-Bees of North America, the Rifts Adventure Guide)

I want to play a…

North American Campaign
Rifts Adventure Guide
Coalition War Campaign
Lone Star
Federation of Magic
Rifts Bionics Sourcebook
Rifts Adventure Sourcebook 1: Forbidden Knowledge
(optional: Mechanoids, Xiticix Invasion, D-Bees of North America, Dinosaur Swamp)

Coalition War Campaign
Coalition War Campaign
Free Quebec
Coalition War series
Federation of Magic
(optional: Xiticix Invasion, D-Bees of North America)

Western Campaign
Vampire Kingdoms
Arzno
New West
Lone Star
(optional: Spirit West, Vampire Sourcebook, D-Bees of North America)

European Campaign
Triax and the NGR
Mindwerks
Rifts Bionics Sourcebook
(optional: combine it with the Russian campaign for a larger view of Eurasia)

Atlantis Campaign
Atlantis
Splynn Dimensional Market
Rifts Conversion Book One Revised
Rifts Dark Conversions
(optional: Underseas, Phase World)

Seafaring Campaign
Underseas
Lemuria
Rifts Sourcebook 4: Coalition Navy
(optional: Atlantis, Japan, China Two, or really any book you think looks fun to visit)

Russian Campaign
Warlords of Russia
Mystic Russia
Rifts Bionics Sourcebook
(optional: Mindwerks)

Asian Campaign
Japan
China One
China Two
(optional: Underseas)

Traveling/’Bit of Everything’ Campaign
Atlantis
Vampire Kingdoms
Aftermath
Triax and the NGR
China Two
Underseas
(optional: any specific book that strikes your fancy)

Dimension Hopping Campaign
Phase World
Atlantis
Wormwood
Rifts Conversion Books
Megaverse Builder
(optional: just about any other Palladium book ever printed)

Phase World/Space Fantasy Campaign
Phase World
Phase World Sourcebook
Anvil Galaxy
Three Galaxies
(optional: Atlantis, Rifts Conversion Books, Megaverse Builder)