Nightlife (1990)

If only there was a way to take all the musical subcultures in New York City circa 1990 and turn them into supernatural factions. So the goths are the vampires, the metal heads are werewolves, the Frankenstein dudes listen to punk rock, etc. Take all that, add some splashes from other horror genres and a bit of cyberpunk flare and you’ve got….wait a minute, you think I’m talking about White Wolf’s World of Darkness, don’t you?

That’d understandable, since World of Darkness pilfers Stellar Games’ Nightlife down to the cupboards. But Nightlife was first and, even though it only had a handful of books, its influence can be seen all over Vampire: The Masquerade.

It’s a D100 skill-based system. The interesting bit is the balance between edges (your supernatural powers, which can be added to), flaws (which are set from the start of the game dependent on race) and your humanity (which is a precious resource). The more edges you buy, the less human you become. The roleplaying implications of that are self-evident, I think.

It’s a cool little game, obsessed with New York in a time before all the culture got sucked out of it. The game city is a rich setting full of factions, corporations, secret societies, oddballs, weirdos, clubs, bars, and just about anything else you can imagine – its exhaustive for being only 250 pages. Because fashion, art and music are so central to the game, it functions a bit like a time capsule of the City in the 90s, the same way The Warriors does for the late 70s. Lacking photos, Nightlife concentrates on capturing the vibes, man.

One flaw, for this and most other “urban” RPGs – where’s the hip hop?

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