Thursday, October 22, 2020

Plays Well With Others: Night Shift and Modern Supernatural Games

I am a firm believer that a rising tide lifts all ships, and that other Game Designers are not my competition, but my colleagues.  I buy their games, they buy mine. We all benefit and we all enjoy.

Naturally, I also feel that a good gaming experience can be had by looking to see what others are doing and seeing what I can bring into my games when I am running them.


When we were working on NIGHT SHIFT we had a fairly strict "no looking at other games" policy.  We really wanted our game to have it's own unique feel and direction.  But that was last year, and now NIGHT SHIFT is out and I am pulling out all my other games to see what each one has that can help NIGHT SHIFT and what Night Shift has that can help them.

Old School Roots

Jason and I have worked on a lot of games. Both together and separately for dozens of publishers. But the one thing we both enjoy are old-school games. This doesn't mean we don't like new ones, quite the opposite in fact. But it is the old-school design aesthetic that keeps us coming back and saying "what else can we do with this?"  NIGHT SHIFT covers both halves of our RPG hearts.

The mechanics in NIGHT SHIFT (what we call O.G.R.E.S. or Oldschool Generic Roleplaying Engine System) are firmly rooted in the Old School mechanics of the world's first popular RPG system.  What does this mean? Well if you have been playing RPGs for any length of time since 1974 then chances are good you can pick up the rules for NIGHT SHIFT very, very quickly. 

Also, it means that out of the box, NIGHT SHIFT is roughly compatible with thousands of RPG titles. 

Appendix A of the NIGHT SHIFT book covers conversions between NS and the Oldest RPG, it also covers conversions between the O.G.R.E.S. of NIGHT SHIFT and the O.R.C.S of other Elf Lair Games products; namely Spellcraft & Swordplay and Eldritch Witchery.


It also covers 0e, B/X and BECMI style conversions. Converting then between NIGHT SHIFT and anything based on Swords & Wizardry or Labyrinth Lord for example is easy.



There are guidelines on how to convert classes, but since the classes have the same DNA as the ones in many of these clone games I am going to take the extra step and say, just play them as is.

So yeah, run a Sage in Labyrinth Lord.  Put a Chosen One in Swords & Wizardry.  In fact, I'd love to hear how this works for you.  This also gives you a good way to add a new supernatural species to your game.  What to play an Angel cleric? With NIGHT SHIFTS rules on supernaturals, you can. IT also makes a nice way to create something my Basic Games have needed, a Vampire Witch.  In NIGHT SHIFT this is easy.

Need more monsters? Grab any monster manual and you can be set to go. Monstrosities and Tome of Horrors Complete are only two examples but they give hundreds of monsters. More than you will ever need.

NIGHT SHIFT is not the only Modern Supernatural RPG out there based on old school roots.  So many in fact that my next one and others would have to constitute another full post to them justice.  But I will mention a couple.

DP&D is such a delight. It really is. I am very fond of this game and I still enjoy playing it.  On the surface it looks like DP&D and NIGHT SHIFT could be used to tell the same sorts of stories, and that is true to a degree, but that really underplays what makes both games special.  

NIGHT SHIFT covers adults (for the most part, I'll talk Generation HEX specifically) in a very dangerous supernatural modern world.
Dark Places & Demogorgons covers kids in a very dangerous supernatural world of the 1980s.


Both games are built on the same chassis and have similar cores.  One day I want to run a game where the Adults (NS) flashback to when they were Kids (DP&D).  Sort of like Stephen King's "It."
Or one could start out as a kid in DP&D progress a bit and then become an adult to continue on in Night Shift.

There is not a good One to One class correspondence between the games and nor would I want there to be.  A Jock (DP&D) might end up as a Veteran (NS) or even as a Chosen One (NS).  In truth, I would give any DP&D kid character some "free" levels in Survivor but allow them to keep some of the perks of their original DP&D class.  So Goths still see ghosts, Karate Kids still kick ass, and so on.  
Frankly, I think it would be a blast with the right group.   Maybe I should write a two-part adventure that covers both. A little like "It" but something very different.  Something "Strange" happened in the 1980s and now a group of characters have gotten back together in their old home town to stop it once again.  

I singled out Generation HEX since that one already covers kids.  I can see a game though were kids from AMPA (Academy of Magic and Paranormal Arts) have to work with the "normies" of DP&D to solve some great mystery.   Likely one that is affecting adults only.

I have also used monsters from the DP&D Cryptid Manual for NIGHT SHIFT many times.

Modern Supernatural

It is no great secret that I LOVE games like WitchCraft and Chill.  I have talked many times about my love of both games. Chill was my first Horror RPG and WitchCraft might be my favorite game of all time.  Jason and I met while working as freelancers for Eden Studios, the company that made WitchCraft.  We worked together on Buffy, Angel, and Army of Darkness.  I helped him with his All Flesh Must Be Eaten books and he helped me on Ghosts of Albion.  A lot of what is in NIGHT SHIFT came out of our conversations of things we wanted to do in those games.


I guess then it is not a shock or surprise that I see NIGHT SHIFT and the spiritual successor, at least on my shelves and table, to games like Buffy and WitchCraft.


Buffy and WitchCraft defined horror monster hunting for the 90s and into the 2000s.  NIGHT SHIFT takes this to 2020 and beyond.  With NIGHT SHIFT I want to be able to play anything those other games offered me.  Sure the playstyle will be different.  WitchCraft is more about the machinations of the Supernatural World.  The Gifted (WC) for example are all covered by the Witch Class in NIGHT SHIFT.  In WitchCraft though there is a HUGE difference between the Wicce and the Rosicrucians. In NIGHT SHIFT those differences would have to be played out by the players in role-playing.  NIGHT SHIFT also is more Normies and Weirdos vs. Dangerous Supernatural types. More like Buffy or Ghosts of Albion in that sense. 


All Souls Night

There is an adventure that I have been dying to finish, "All Souls Night."  It is part of a trilogy across time and distance that includes Ghosts of Albion's "Blight", Buffy's "The Dark Druid" and what I have been thinking of as D&D's All Souls Night.  Translating them all into NIGHT SHIFT makes this so much easier to run. 

Supernatural and Chill
Not the new version of "Netflix and Chill" but adapting the best monster hunter games. 

Chill has such a long history I could not do it justice here.  I love the game but one place it has always felt a little lacking for me is the ability to play a spell-caster.  The Supernatural RPG is the same way.  In truth, Supernatural RPG is the cinematic version of Chill.   I mean sure. If I wanted to play a spellcaster, or a witch, I still have Buffy, WitchCraft, Ghosts of Albion, and about 100 other games to do that.  Both Chill and Supernatural are solid "let's go hunt some monsters" games.  So is NIGHT SHIFT.



Adapting the style of either game is easy.  Having these games also gives your NIGHT SHIFT game a slightly edgier feel.

I have already shown that Supernatural characters like The Wayward Sisters and Charlie Bradbury can have new life in NIGHT SHIFT.  

Some games, like say Call of Cthulhu, fit their niche so perfectly that I would not want to run a "Mythos" game with NIGHT SHIFT, but I certainly could borrow ideas from CoC for my NIGHT SHIFT games.  

In many ways doing a Plays Well With Others and NIGHT SHIFT is a cheat.  One of my own design principles for the game was to make it as flexible as I could so it could cover a wide variety of game and play styles.  I am happy in my belief that we succeeded in that.

1 comment:

Gonz said...

The Supernatural RPG is still one of my most precious possessions... and I'm glad I bought when it came out as it is very hard to find these days.

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