Beyond the Supernatural
|A Role-Playing Game of Contemporary Horror|
Front cover of Beyond the Supernatural first edition rulebook, illustrated by Richard Corben
|Designer(s)||Randy McCall, Kevin Siembieda, Erick Wujcik|
|Illustrator(s)||Covers: Denis Beauvais, Richard Corben, John Zeleznik
Interiors: Stephen R. Bissette, Michael Dubisch, Kevin Long, Apollo Okamura, Ramón Pérez, Freddie E. Williams II
|Publication date||October 1987
January 2005 (2nd edition)
Beyond the Supernatural is a horror role-playing game published by Palladium Books. It has seen two editions released, both of which have introduced innovations on Palladium's standard mechanics. A versatile horror-themed game, it lends itself well to wildly different play styles and narrative tones, from schlock splatter-horror to intense psychological horror, with an entire spectrum of terror (or humor, or action, etc.) in between. Beyond the Supernatural is implicitly set in the modern day, wherein magic and psychic powers are real and monsters and demonic cults exist, but out of the public eye. This, however, is not set in stone, and most of the character classes are flexible enough to account for variant settings or time periods.
The first edition of Beyond the Supernatural was published September 1987 and was a joint project between Randy McCall and Kevin Siembieda, the president and lead game designer of Palladium Books. It had one supplement published, Boxed Nightmares, in November 1990; Boxed Nightmares was a collection of adventures, along with a faux tabloid. Much of the art for both titles was created by Kevin Long. Players could select one of several Psychic Character Classes (P.C.C.s), which determined their abilities; these included Psychic Sensitives, Physical Psychics, Psi-Mechanics (who required devices as crutches to make use of their psychic powers), Arcanists (who had studied magic), Parapsychologists (who had neither psychic nor magical powers, but a great deal of knowledge about both), Nega-Psychics (psychics whose great disbelief in the supernatural actually disrupted its presence), and ordinary people. The system used the then-standard Palladium combat and skills system, including variable educational levels for most characters; two individuals of the same P.C.C. could have substantially different training backgrounds and skill sets, with one being a doctoral student and another a high-school drop-out, depending either on the roll of the dice or character concept.
First edition's innovation's on Palladium's system was in terms of its supernatural powers. Beyond the Supernatural introduced the concept of Potential Psychic Energy (P.P.E.), which is invested in skills and psychic powers as a person develops, and is used to power magical spells. This replaced the older "spells per day" system that had been used in earlier versions of the Palladium Fantasy Role-Playing Game (1983), Heroes Unlimited (1984), and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness (1985). Psychic powers were also now organized into the categories of Physical, Healing, and Sensitive, instead of experience levels as they had been previously. Both of these innovations, and the metaphysical underpinnings for them, became standard in Palladium Megaversal games.
The second edition of Beyond the Supernatural was released in January 2005 after a lengthy development period. Like its predecessor, it is set in a modern version of Earth, where supernatural forces act out of sight of most of the populace, but may be altered to fit into other time periods or settings. Unlike the first edition, however, it does not have a section on magic nor an extensive bestiary; the two supplements that are to have detailed these aspects were to have immediately followed the core rulebook but have yet to be published.
Second edition maintained several things from the first edition. For most characters, education and occupation are still independent of P.C.C., reflecting the more modern and realistic veneer of the setting. All of the previous P.C.C.s, except the Arcanist, returned, and were joined by other P.C.C.s reflecting other aspects of psychic ability, such as the pyrokinetic Firewalker and the Autistic Psychic Savant. Many P.C.C.s were updated, and the idea of purchasing powers directly with P.P.E. was abandoned except in the case of the Psi-Mechanic and Genius/Natural Athlete; additional powers are selected, not purchased.
Second edition, however, made some very significant changes to maintain the mystery of the setting, preventing characters from bringing "proof" of monsters or psychic powers to the world at large. Psychic powers are difficult to recreate under laboratory conditions, and totals of Inner Strength Points (I.S.P.), the "fuel" for psychic powers, are very small when not under a direct supernatural threat. Furthermore, supernatural creatures dissolve completely when destroyed, leaving nothing behind to be analyzed or photographed.
Beyond the Supernatural has a small but loyal fanbase, many of whom feel that the game has been ignored in favor of Palladium's more popular series, Rifts. They cite the years-long development time on Beyond the Supernatural, Second Edition (it was mentioned by Kevin Siembieda as far back as January 1998), and the significant delay in producing two necessary supplemental sourcebooks: Tome Grotesque (a bestiary) and Beyond Arcanum (a book describing magic in the setting). While such things can be brought into the setting from other Palladium game series, due to compatibility with the Megaversal rules, the unique nature of the Beyond the Supernatural world makes this unsatisfying to some critics. As such, many fans regard the second edition as incomplete. Another complaint among many fans is the lack of the victim rules, originally written by Erick Wujcik and featured in the first edition.
- Beyond the Supernatural official discussion board at Palladium Books Forums of the Megaverse
- Beyond the Supernatural at RPG Geek Database
- Beyond the Supernatural at RPGnet Game Index
- Lazlo Society – Beyond the Supernatural official in-character role-playing game forum
- The House of BTS - Beyond the Supernatural fan site that's maintained by a Palladium Books Freelancer