Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Obscure RPG Corner: NightLife

Somewhere in the stygian depths of the internet, I once heard that much of Vampire: the Masquerade was influenced by a relatively obscure urban horror rpg called NightLife. I picked up a copy on the cheap, mostly because I am eternally searching for something to replace White Wolf.

I definitely see some of the possible influence in the concepts, not necessarily the mechanics. The way dice works actually seems more similar to Pacesetter, though not quite as anal about degrees of success.

It's a pretty solid little game, the rules only taking up about 50 pages and the rest (and there isn't much after that) being devoted mostly to fluff. The game takes place in NYC by default, specifically in the punk underground scene. Of course, you could easily move it elsewhere if that's not your jam.

Interesting idea: Learning powers costs you Humanity. The more powerful/inhuman the power, the bigger the cost. Humanity works very much like it does in Vampire- as it drops, a character becomes more difficult to play in "normal" situations, finally becoming a ravening NPC.

Player characters are pretty well indestructible by normal means. They can be "killed" but return to life the following night. They can do this a number of times equal to their Fit score...and in a percentile system, that's a lot of dying. Of course, PCs can be snuffed by their traditional weaknesses. (Vampires in the sun, etc.)

One thing I hate: Vampires and wights are spelled with a y.

Apparently NightLife went through three editions in two years, which is a little nuts. I'm not even 100% sure what edition I have. (I think it's the first) I've also ordered the magic supplement with witches and sorcerers and whatnot...frankly I'm a little surprised I could even *find* it. (I had to dip my toe in the fetid waters of Ebay) I'm always down to pick apart an RPG's magic system.

I think this is a game I would try. My brain already wants to find a way to incorporate it into Chill/Creature Feature/Majus/Crypt World, because I'm nuts. Hell, I'm still simultaneously picking away at my year-and-a-half old FUDGE urban horror game and my BXWoD. (I've hit a snag with the tedium that is magic items. I'm thinking about scaling them back significantly because they've really killed my momentum on the project.)

No Deadlands this Friday due to my being out of town for a few days. Engines & Empires is set to resume this Sunday since that weird egg holiday thing is over with.


  1. @ DMW:

    Huh, never heard of this game. I often consider "rewriting" (i.e. hacking) Vampire to make play more as it appears was intended. The trade-off of humanity for power would definitely be something to include (consider for a moment: why *would* a character who exhibits more superhuman powers continue to relate to humanity? WW did a better job of exploring this idea with Aberrant than they did with the WoD, in my opinion).

    If you get around to playing NightLife, I'd be interested to hear how it plays.

  2. I've read both the main book and its supplement. Its not too bad and its decently true to its splatterpunk ethos.

    Not my cup of Joe though I actually prefer Eden Studious Witchcraft which can get free and legal at various places.

    Also the "powers cost humanity" angle is still in use today at the core of the Dresden Files RPG (using FATE) powers system.

    Nothing new under the night I guess ;)

  3. Played Nightlife for years. Picked up the first edition in 1991. Still have my 3rd edition and supplements sitting on a place of honor on the gameshelf.
    Still one of my favorite games. it doesn't take itself overly seriously and man is it entertaining. We house ruled the hell out of with a few new rules and of course wrote our own races.It was a big influence on my D6 conversions for supernatural characters.

  4. Damn. Heres my site of NL stuff from 12 yeard ago. first time I ever put anything on the internet. Lol

  5. @JB- I'll definitely blog a play report.

    @5Stone- I have a dead tree copy of Witchcraft and Armageddon. (I was a big Eden fan back in the day.) I've read through WC but never actually run or played it... which I should someday remedy.

    @David- Haha, I just looked at your site the other night while looking for NL materials.

  6. @DungeonMastahWieg

    I've played a lot of Buffy and Angel which is the cinematic version of the system used in Witchcraft. It plays better than any game I've ever played for my play style, its fluid, fast and has surprisingly high level of verisimilitude

    I highly recommend it. I've never actually used Witchcraft though its mechanically is pretty much the same.

  7. I am currently running a game. It can be found at https://mystical-treasure.obsidianportal.com/
    There is no real differences in edition just a few rule cleanups and combining of books.

  8. Nice. Since I've got some of the books as well, I'm probably not missing anything too critical. I'll be sure to check your game out. :)

  9. First edition NL is 80 pages and has "(c) 1990" on the title page.

    Second edition is 96 pages and has "(c) 1990, 1991" on the title page.

    Third edition is 256 pages and has "(c) 1990, 1991, 1992" on the title page.

    Also: if you can get your hands on the Magic supplement, do so. It's glorious.

  10. I have the first edition, then.

    I did end up snagging the magic supplement, though I never got around to fully reading it. (I only have a two day work week this week, though... so...)

    1. I love the Magic supplement. The weird spells, the weirder demons...ah, good times.