Author: Bradley K McDevitt, L Lee Cerny, Walter H Mytczynskyj (he's also the typesetter - is it a joke ?)
Company/Publisher: Stellar Games
Page count: 256
Capsule Review by Philippe Tromeur on 09/12/99.
Genre tags: Fantasy Modern_day Horror Conspiracy Vampire Gothic Asian/Far_East
Note : this is a review of the 3rd edition of NIGHTLIFE ; The first edition was published in 1990, a second one in 1991, and the last (and best) one in 1992.
In NIGHTLIFE, "the roleplaying game of urban horror", you can play a supernatural creature.
7 Major Races are described in detail : Vampyre, Werewolf, Ghost, Daemon, Wyght, Animate (Homunculi, Golems, living statues and the like) and Inuit (I think "Manitou" is a better name) but, since the 2nd edition, you may also choose a race among more than 40 races.
Those races are "The Kin" ; they have things in common (immortality, ability / need to drain life force from humans, the Herd ...) even if they have much different origins :
You also have :
- a long description of New-York, with real-world details along with information on gangs (both Kin end Herd), places where the Kin gather ... (the time is 1997, that was "near future" ; today we might call it "Uchrony")
- details about different Kin / Herd Factions and Organizations with NPC's fully detailed. Players are advised to choose the benevolent faction of the Commune, but other choices are possible (Herd-hating Complex, bloodthirsty Red Moonrise ... even human Kin-watching Target Alpha)
- appendixes : maps, shopping list, listings and references, animals, table about Kin Health (do they need to breath ? can they reproduce ? details for all races), caracter sheet, index ...
The rules are really classical, but they work. It's percentile based for skills and edges (powers). Character have edges and flaws depending on their race. Some of them need to feed daily, some other don't, but all of them have to feed on humans to regenerate damage.
One important number is the Humanity. At zero, you're an alien monster, at 100, you're an immortal human. Humanity rises and falls depending on your actions. Also, you lose Humanity when you use or improve your Edges...
Edges and flaws might seem strange to some people accustomed to other game systems (werewolf don't regenertate, for example, but they drain pain) but I think it's just because we're so biased by years of gaming. Open your mind.
The art is OK. It's far from today's standards, but it achieves what it's meant to be : illustration. Personally, I love the style of co-designer Bradley K. McDevitt (BKM).
The writing style is good, straightforward, and easy to understand.
Information is easy to find, thanks to the index. (There are some minor problems, such as information about the evolution of elder Kindred dispatched among 2 or 3 places, but you won't use it often)
Nightlife was a successful attempt into building a coherent background mixing urban legend, spatterpunk and 'monster-gaming'. Too bad, they suffered much from competition from White-Wolf products.
!!!!STORYTELLER ADVISORY : EXPLICIT OUT-OF-REVIEW CRITICISM!!!!
I think Werewolf and Wraith were based on too limited subjects, so they added many things totally out of real folklore. Wraith was a failure (even White Wolf aknoweledges that and blast the Shadowlands out of existence this year, or something like that) and Werewolf is just a fuzzy super-heroes game. In those cases, I think the bad guys are the best parts of the games.
Mage and Vampire are good games, but both factions are self-sufficient.
Changeling was based on too rich a subject, so the main theme - loss of innocence - is rather limiting...
Anyway, White-Wolf crossover is a pain in the neck, both for gamerules and background.
!!!!END OF PERSONAL RANTING!!!!
If you want a change from angst-ridden bloodsuckers, ecologist shamanistic werewolves or kafkaian Wraiths, if you want to give a try to real savage wolfmen, butt-kicking undead heroes anf fantasy urban warriors, find a copy of this excellent game (3rd edition recommended).
7 years after, this game needs (and really deserves) a revival.
Style: 3 (Average)