Review: Nightbane Survival Guide from Palladium Books

I am a huge “Nightbane” fan. I originally bought it thinking it was a “Rifts” supplement, but was happily surprised by its Nightbane Survival Guide from Palladium Booksunique combination of horror, humor and no small amount of biting social satire.  It is one of my favorite games, but it has lain fallow for years. There were simply no books published for the game, other than the occasional article in Palldium Books “Rifter” magazine.

Finally, Kevin Siembieda and company produced a new supplement that I bought on release day, the “Nightbane Survival Guide.”

The “NSG” is written in the form of an underground netbook that circulates the web, believed by some, but mostly an urban legend to most readers.  It makes the book more readable than the standard game rules book. Not a very original idea, admittedly, but it is executed well. In fact, the editing and writing are above average for a Palladium release.

This is technically a supplement for the earlier “Nightbane” rulebook, but it feels more like a “re-launch.” It covers much of the same ground as the earlier supplements (factions, plot hooks, villians), in some cases in more detail, but mostly just a review for new readers. There are no game rules included in the book, so you still need the base book.

Let us be honest. People like “Nightbane” because the PC Nightbane characters are truly freakish. Want a squid head pierced by razorblades? No problem. Feel the need to bleed continously from open sores and breathe fire?  Easily done.  Do not forget to eat extra bullets to load the shotgun sticking out of your forehead. Actually, this is the tame stuff. Since the characters use elaborate dice-driven charts to determine characteristics, really odd PCs appear during character generation.

This twisted form,  called the “Morphus”, was something of an issue previously. Each characteristic, ie metal skin or tentacles granted some boon, better armor or an extra attack. Sadly, the original Morphus characteristics were often unbalanced. They granted boons, sometimes significant, with no drawbacks. It was quite easy to create seriously overpowered characters with minimal effort, even using the random tables.

“NSG” rectifies many of these issues by adding drawbacks to each characteristic. Squid heads are cool and let you breathe underwater, but you now take extra damage from fire. Basic game balance that was missing from the original rulebook is updated.

A new “comprehensive” Morphus role chart includes all of the new and old tables for easy character generation. The downside is that you have to own some of the other supplements to make full use of them. Not an issue for the fans, but newcomers might find this annoying.

There are also new “talents” (spells) for Nightspawn PCs, random character history charts and a fairly interesting adventure involving cell phones and an evil government agency. 

Since Palladium has a deserved reputation for “recycling” content between supplements, I was on the look out for old material re-printed here and happily I could not find anything! I might be wrong, but I cannot find anything that is a reprint!

Even the art was original. One or two images looked familiar, but I am nearly certain that all the art is unique to this book. Sadly, though original, I did not like the art.  The cover painting is very well-done, but much of the interior art seemed lackluster.  Since I have no artistic skill, the act of commenting on someone else’s artwork is quite hypocritcal on my part. I certainly can do no better. That said, I just did not like the interior art.  Your mileage may vary.

Art aside, I am impressed with Palladium Books latest offering and will once again pitch a Nightbane campaign to my game group. I hope this time they bite.

Trask, The Last Tyromancer

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trask

Trask is a long-time gamer, world traveler and history buff. He hopes that his scribblings will both inform and advance gaming as a hobby.