Vampire Kingdoms (1991)

Rifts, from Palladium Games, is maybe the biggest slipstream game (that is, a game that mixes genres with wild abandon) to come out of the 90s. I have about three feet of Rifts sourcebooks, which are all thick enough to make a decent improvised weapon in a pinch, and I have no idea what the hell is going on. There’s monsters and sorcerers and dudes in power armor and riders of the apocalypse and way more than I can list here and keep under the Instragram character limit. Let me just say that creator Kevin Siembieda’s love is fully on display in book after Rifts book, and that love is both broad and weirdly particular.

Vampire Kingdoms is the first World Book. For some reason (like I said, I have never really figured it out but it involves ley lines, the future, extradimensional portals and a nuclear war), Mexico is now ruled by vampires. How awesome is that? (Remember, From Dusk till Dawn didn’t come out until 1996; Vampire Kingdoms came out in ’91). The book details how awesome that is and attempts to make vampires scary in a world with giant robots. It kind of succeeds? I don’t know, there’s so much stuff jammed in any given Rifts book, none of it can possibly be cohesive. But it is glorious in its way.

The art is something I have long admired about Palladium (starting with their old ads in Dragon Magazine). Vampire Kingdoms doesn’t disappoint in this regard. Kevin Long is amazing. His precision crosshatching blows me away. I want his vampires and his robots to coexist and fight. Just look at that stages of vampiric recovery illustration! And the vampire king on his Aztec throne. So good. His art pretty much is the glue that binds Rifts.

(In case the idea of vampires taking over Mexico is too implausible for you, let me tell you that when I worked in a record store, we did a lot of mail order business to Mexico with rare goth and industrial music, so there)

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