October 23, 2013
A Look At The Crunch Of Nightbane
Nightbane is a game brought to us from Palladium Books, the same creative minds behind the Rifts Role-Playing Game. It uses the same system as Rifts, as the purpose of that game system is to make all of its material cross compatible. It shares the same attributes and skill system, uses SDC and Hit Points rather than MDC, and has the same problem of never really explaining its system all that well, leaving much of it to the intuition of the Gamemaster and players. Compared to many of the other games published by Palladium Books, Nightbane is one that borders very close to being a horror game. In flavor, it manages to do quite well in this regard, but unfortunately its mechanics do not sit well with a horror theme. Characters within the game tend to be some of the very things that the game focuses on being scary. In short, you play as the monsters.
Nightbane focuses on its namesake, the Nightbane. These are men and women who, during the time of darkness (see my following article on the fluff of Nightbane) transformed into monstrous creatures out of a nightmare. Some have bestial forms, others appear as living dolls, while others still seem either completely alien, cursed with permanent, disfiguring wounds that will never heal, or are even fusions with other creatures or objects, such as a motorcycle-man centaur. A good portion of the rule book is devoted to the creation of a Nightbane form, as these nightmarish forms can be assumed at will, which can be either selected by the player or created randomly via various tables and charts found within. An incredibly fun game, the setting feels more like a creepy super-hero game than a horror game, despite the game itself repeating time and time again that it is meant to be a personal-horror game, much in the same genre of Vampire: The Masquerade. I feel somewhat petty for pointing this out, but given how much pride the game takes in its creepiness, it is hard to ignore. This game does work very well with another Palladium Books game, namely Beyond the Supernatural, which does an excellent job at playing up a horror-themed occult mystery game.
I had a lot of fun with this game when I was younger, as it has a very unique setting and feel. Even then, I would joke that it was a super-hero/horror game in order to get other players interested, and it usually worked. What I consider a role-playing classic, I recommend anyone interested to give it a look. Despite not fitting well into its self-proclaimed niche of supernatural horror, it does have a very tragic feel to it, as the characters must come to terms with being something no longer entirely, if at all, human. Sure, there are lots of games that do this, namely the World of Darkness line, but this one is well worth a look.
Image Credit: Palladium Books