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Tabletop Game / Nightbane

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Nightbane is a Dark Fantasy Tabletop Role-Playing Game and setting created by C. J. Carella and published in 1995 by Palladium Books. Originally published under the title "Nightspawn", the game's name was changed after legal threats from the lawyers of Todd McFarlane, creator of the Spawn comic book.

The setting is this: On March 6, 2000, the entire planet was shrouded in unnatural darkness for three days. This was due to The Nightlords, a secret cabal of supernatural beings from another dimension, and their shapeshifting minions, who then quietly seized control of the world's governments and corporate powers. It was also during this darkness that thousands of people learned that they could become inhuman monsters with strange powers and often terrifying visages. These shape-changing beings are called the Nightbane, for it was at night that they become monsters. It is now up to the Nightbane to save the Earth from the Nightlords with the rest of humanity unaware of their secret war.

The game uses Palladium's "Megaversal" system, which is also used by the multi-genre game Rifts and the horror game Beyond the Supernatural, among others. Players don't have to be just Nightbane, however, they can also be human, vampires and even mysterious angelic beings known as The Guardians.

There are several factions that the players can encounter, or even join: The Resistance, made of up Nightbane who oppose the Nightlords; The Underground Railroad, who just wants Nightbane to keep hiding from humanity; The Warlords, Nightbane who used their powers to take over gangs and organized crime; The Nocturne, an alliance of supernatural beings (including vampires, whom most Nightbane do not trust); The Seekers, a group (mainly of humans) who investigate magic and the supernatural; The Spook Squad, an organization made up of (former) government agents who survived the Nightlord takeover and are trying to retake control (but are underpowered and barely understand what's going on); and The Lightbringers, all-around do-gooders led by The Guardians.

Tropes in Nightbane:

  • Addiction-Powered: The Dark Designs sourcebook introduced a brand new Substance Abuse table for Nightbane that get most of their powers from various types of drug addictions. (For example, alcoholics get a Morphus constantly soaked and dripping with booze while pill poppers have the ability to grow pill bottles out of their own skin.) The section also comes with a disclaimer warning against doing drugs in real life and advising all potential players to immediately seek help if they find themselves suffering from any kind of substance problem.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: The Nightlords and most of their minions. Also most vampires.
  • Amazing Technicolor Population: One of the possible traits Nightbane can get on the Alien Shape table is unnaturally colored skin. (This can range from simple unusual hues such as red, blue or green to more outlandish and fantastical colors such as metallic grey, gold, pitch black or solid white.)
  • Animated Tattoo: Some Nightbane have moving tattoos on their skin that reflect their emotions and mental state while others have ones that can be directly controlled and altered by the Nightbane themselves.
  • Attractiveness Discrimination: Many Nightbane (particularly those from the Club Freak faction) with a Morphus that doesn't include Unearthly Beauty are often hostile towards those who do, referring to them derisively as Barbies and Kens.
  • The Bad Guys Are Cops: Most of the world's police force was replaced by Dopplegangers or corrupt humans by the Nightlords. Good cops still exist but they are a very small minority.
  • Bloody Murder: One of the more powerful talents a Nightbane can have is the ability to control their own blood which they can use to suffocate their victim. Acquiring it requires at least one Morphus character trait be taken from the Stigmata table, adding to its grimness.
  • Body Horror: The Stigmata Table has plenty of stomach-churning possibilities for a Nightbane's Morphus. Issue #1 of The Rifter included the Gross Stigmata Table for those who thought the regular Stigmata Table wasn't gross enough.
  • Casting a Shadow: Powers of this nature are extremely common (quite fitting for a game called Nightbane after all) among the various supernatural races roaming the game world. Nightbane in particular can get a few talents based around this such as the "Shadow Blast" and "Shadow Shield" abilities.
  • Changeling Fantasy: Of sorts, if a pretty dark take.
  • Combat Tentacles: Players can have these as special limbs and use them to perform a tentacle strike attack.
  • Crapsack World: Evil rules the world, most people just don't realize it.
  • Creepy Doll: One of the many forms a Nightbane's Morphus can take.
  • Creepy Long Fingers: They're not just for show, either! Players who have these get some nice bonuses to various skills.
  • Cursed with Awesome: Nightbanes may have some Freakiness Shame inducing powers... except they are in complete control of them, and may do with them as they will.
  • Cute Monster Girl: Though there's no hard data to back it, it's widely believed in-universe that Nightbane possessing a Morphus with unearthly beauty are disproportionately female.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Many Nightbane powers are shadow-based, and they belong to people who have the same rate of good and bad as everyone else.
  • Dark World: The Nightlands, where the Nightlords come from (and possibly the Nightbane's original homeworld.)
  • Death World: Again, the Nightlands. Most of the terrain is an infinite wasteland filled with little more than rocks and gravel, instead of the saltwater oceans of Earth there are large plains of sand similar to the Utah Salt Flats that stretch for miles and freshwater is only found in a few small rivers and streams. Oh, and the whole place is run by demonic otherworldly entities that love nothing more than enslaving, torturing and murdering whatever poor creatures enter their domain. Even Nightbane characters can have a hard time surviving in this place.
  • Devil, but No God: Subverted, despite appearances, with the Baal (the Nightlords) being the 'devils' and a mysterious being creating The Guardians as their counterparts.
  • Dimension Lord: The Nightlords.
  • Fallen Angel: Any Nightbane with some traits from both the demonic and angelic creation tables can end up with a Morphus that looks like this. The Fallen Guardians introduced in the Shadows of Light sourcebook may be an even more literal example and typically serve as NPC villains.
  • Fantastic Racism: Plenty among the various races.
  • Feral Vampires: Wild Vampires are a lower tier vampire variant with far less intelligence and savage tendencies unusually as a result of going mad from hunger or being poorly turned by another vampire. They can serve as player characters but their violent and unpredictable behavior make them generally much better suited as enemies or maybe the occasional unlikely ally.
  • Flaying Alive: One possible Stigmata Table characteristic for a Nightbane is large patches of missing skin. In the more extreme cases this can be applied to their whole body as well.
  • Friendly Neighborhood Vampire: Wampyrs are the only type of vampire in the game that be of a good alignment. All others are either some variety of evil or selfish at best.
  • Government Conspiracy: Twice. First, there was the "War Room", a secret faction that carried out "black ops" without the public's knowledge; now that the government has been taken over by "aliens" this group became the Spook Squad.
  • Hell-Bent for Leather: This is a dark Urban Fantasy series originally printed in the mid 90s featuring demons, monsters and vampires... pretty sure it's required by law that at least a quarter of the cast dress in leather jackets or bondage gear. Nightbane can also have leather skin studded with metallic decorations as an optional physical trait.
  • Historical Domain Character: Attila the Hun's Doppelganger is Warlord of the Hell Riders. The book defies the usual Historical Villain Upgrade, and instead presents him as a highly intelligent and relatively well-educated Cultured Badass instead of an insane berserker, though it also depicts his cruelty and delusions of grandeur.
  • Horde of Alien Locusts: The Shadow Mantis monsters.
  • Horrifying Hero: Good alignment Nightbane can be this, especially if they have traits from the stigmata table. Just because you look like a giant mutant hellspawn with freaky powers doesn't mean you can't be a nice guy underneath it all.
  • Human Sacrifice: Since they can't use their life drain powers during combat most Nightlords prefer to get their meals via this method.
  • Hunter of Monsters: Virtually all player characters are this to some extent as most of the game revolves around fighting the various horrors and monsters that have invaded the human world from realms beyond the scope of reality.
  • Hybrid Monster: The vast amount of trait and power combinations that can be mixed during character creation allows any player to become this with just a few rolls of the dice.
  • Identity Amnesia: The Guardians *might* be dying humans revived to serve the light. They don't remember.
  • Innate Night Vision: Several different races of supernatural creatures either have this as a natural ability or can acquire it through character building, though different groups often have vastly different levels of effectiveness with it. Nightbane, for example, can get this as one of their starting powers depending on what they roll for their character sheet with some of the many different Morphus types getting enhanced or weakened variants of it.
  • Kill and Replace: The ultimate fate of most government agents and politicians during the Dark Day. The few survivors who managed to escape their doom immediately went into hiding and later formed some of the factions present in the game.
  • Layered World: Has multiple realms in the form of the Nightlands, the Astral Plane, and the Dream Stream.
  • Life Drinker: This is one of the main powers of the Nightlords. Instead of needing to consume food or drink they instead sustain themselves on the lifeforce of their victims, often preferring their meals to be seasoned with plenty of fear and suffering.
  • Living Toys: Many Morphus forms can take on this appearance, sometimes even giving the Nightbane in question a special ability or two as a result.
  • Light Is Good: The Guardians, who are always good, have light-based powers.
  • Long-Lived: Many of the supernatural races in this series can last for a very long time compared to ordinary humans. The Nightbane themselves can easily survive for thousands of years at the minimum and perhaps even longer than that.
  • Magic or Psychic?: Both magic and psionics exist in the world of Nightbane as two separate but similar sources of power with many character classes that specialize in one or the other, though the two types of abilities tend to be mutually exclusive. Nightbane, for example, get access to many free magical powers by default but cannot use any psionics.
  • The Masquerade: The Nightbane existed for thousand of years on Earth, hiding from humans. Most of the current ones had no idea they weren't even human!
  • The Men in Black: A few factions and groups use this as their main aesthetic. The NSB agents are probably the most straightforward example, though the vast majority of them are actually monstrous evil entities that support the Nightlords in secret.
  • Meta Origin: Dark Day, sort of. (While many Nightbane already existed on Earth, it 'awoke' many more.) Also, magic has become stronger since then.
  • Monster Clown: Dark Designs provides players with a table for rolling up a Morphus with powerful and creepy clown features such as big shoes to absorb the impact from falls, a rubber ball nose to boost smell related abilities or "clown gags" that can be used to aid the Nightbane in combat. It's noted that even the other Nightbane have an uneasy respect/fear for Clown Morpuses both due to their surprising effectiveness in battle and weirdly useful special abilities.
  • Monstrous Humanoid: No matter how otherworldly or demonic they become most Nightbane Morphus forms keep a humanoid shape with only a few rare exceptions.
  • Muggles: Most humans.
  • Multi-Armed and Dangerous: Players can have a set of extra arms as special limbs that give them some powerful combat bonuses.
  • Multiple Head Case: Some Nightbane have multiple heads or faces as a trait, though the exact number tends to vary quite a bit. Some have only two or three while others have several. It's also pretty common for each individual head to have its own personality and emotions.
  • Murderous Mannequin: Though they can be any alignment just like other Nightbane its possible for players to roll up a character with the features of a department store mannequin as their Morphus. Unsurprisingly, this eerie new form gives them a small bonus to Horror Factor along with a few other stats.
  • My Horse Is a Motorbike: The Hell Riders are Born in the Saddle Doppelgangers who've upgraded to motorcycles, and are led by the Doppelganger of Attila the Hun.
  • Next Sunday A.D.: The story begins in the early years of the 21st century when a global event shrouded the world in darkness and awakened various supernatural forces long since forgotten in the human realm. The book itself was first published in the mid 90s.
  • Occult Detective: Or Arcane Detective, as the O.C.C. is called. These guys are your standard film noir investigators who are gifted with many magical powers and some nifty bonuses and resistances when it comes to the supernatural.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: There's the classical kind, and the Wampyrs (free-willed vampires).
    • The Nightlords are psychic vampires.
  • Plant Person: The Plant Life Morphus Table introduced in the Nightlands sourcebook adds a few variants of these for players to choose from, including:
    • Cactus Person: This trait gives the Nightbane green cactus skin covered in sharp needles.
    • Garden Garment: This one grants the Nightbane new abilities based on the type of plant clothing they wear.
    • Stinky Flower: Having this trait allows the Nightbane to open special bulbs on their body to release a foul odor. Destroying or hitting the bulbs with an attack produces a similar effect.
    • When Trees Attack: Options for this one range from minor tree features such as thick bark skin all the way to being an actual humanoid tree.
  • Playing Card Motifs: One of the many possible results on the Hobbyist Table from the Dark Designs sourcebook. Naturally, a Morphus with this aesthetic also gets Death Dealing powers as one of its main bonuses.
  • Psychic Powers: Nightbane cannot have them, but humans, guardians and vampires do.
  • Recurring Element: Darkness, both literal and metaphorical.
  • Ride the Lightning: One of the obtainable Nightbane Talents allows this.
  • Scary Jack-in-the-Box: One of the possible results on the Clown Table in Dark Designs is a spooky Jack-in-the-Box Morphus. It provides the Nightbane with some really great defensive power but also heavily cripples their movement as a penalty, making it a bit of a double-edged sword.
  • Scary Scarecrows: An available Nightbane Morphus trait that gives the character some pretty interesting stat bonuses, penalties and even a fitting weapon that is a living extension of their own body. The main downside to this is that the weapon makes stealth harder and vanishes when the Nightbane returns to their normal form.
  • Scary Scorpions: Nightlands Scorpions are evil creatures that prey on humans and typically grow to about the size of a small dog. They can also serve as familiars.
  • Scary Stitches: Yet another feature available on the Stigmata Table. Naturally, it tends to go really well with the corpse-like flesh trait.
  • Seers: One of the most common power sets used by psychics in the setting. Characters with the Divination ability can select a specialty from a list of about a dozen different Whatevermancy prediction arts and use it to gaze into the future. Some of the methods mentioned include:
  • Shout-Out: To William Hope Hodgson's work The Night Land.
  • Slaying Mantis: Shadow Mantises are nasty 10 foot tall bug monsters that have hundreds of hit points, hit like a truck and are immune to magic and energy based attacks.
  • Superpowered Evil Side: Subverted; while most Nightbane's true form (the "Morphus") is often hideous, they usually retain control of themselves, and it provides most of their powers.
  • The Unreveal: Many facts are left ambiguous, such as: Are the Nightbane originally from the Nightlands? Were the Nightlords once human? What exactly are the Guardians?
  • Underground Railroad: This game has a faction literally named "The Underground Railroad" that seeks to protect newly awakened Nightbane and is directly inspired by the real life Underground Railroad that helped escaped slaves flee to freedom in northern states before the American Civil War.
  • Urban Fantasy: The game's genre.
  • The 'Verse: The Nightbane's Earth is part of the larger Palladium Megaverse.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Many examples: The Nightbane, The Vampires, The Nightlords etc.
  • Wound That Will Not Heal: One of the more disturbing traits a Nightbane can have are grievous (but ultimately benign) wounds that never heal.