Front cover of the Nightbane core rulebook, illustrated by Gerald Brom
|Designer(s)||C. J. Carella, Kevin Siembieda, Irvin Jackson, Kevin Hassall, Mark Oberle, Jason Vey|
|Illustrator(s)||Wayne Breaux, Jr., Gerald Brom, Kent Burles, Fred Fields, Scott Johnson, Vince Martin, Martin McKenna, Ramón Pérez, Roger Peterson, Randy Post, John Zeleznik, et al.|
|Publication date||August 1995|
|Genre(s)||Dark fantasy, horror, superhero|
Nightbane is a dark fantasy role-playing game and setting created by C. J. Carella and published in 1995 by Palladium Books. 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.
The world of Nightbane is a dark fantasy setting very much like our own modern world on the surface, but beneath that, it is more sinister. Disappearances and murders are common place. Reports of monster sightings are more frequent, and people tend to feel hopeless and helpless. The reason for this is that a secret cabal of supernatural beings from another dimension and their shapeshifting minions have quietly seized control of the world's government and corporate powers.
Originally written and created by C. J. Carella, the property was revived by Palladium in July 2009 with the release of the Nightbane Survival Guide written by Irvin Jackson and Mark Oberle, who, according to podcast interviews with the authors and Palladium founder Kevin Siembieda, are expected to continue writing books for the line in the future.
On March 6, 2000, at 6:02am, the entire planet was shrouded in unnatural darkness. The darkness blocked out the sun, and neither the stars nor the moon were visible. Many believed it to be the end of the world. Governments blamed each other, thinking it to be the effect of some secret weapon. Riots, rapes, beatings, and murders were commonplace. Emergency call centers were flooded with reports of monsters roaming the streets and skies. Numerous people simply disappeared.
It was also during this darkness that thousands of people learned that they had become inhuman monsters. Many of them were killed before they knew what had happened to them. Some were killed by mobs of terrified humans, others took their own lives. Those that survived learned that they could return to their human forms. These shapechanging beings are called the Nightbane, for it was at night that they become monsters.
Character types and factions
Possibly the best hope for Earth lie with the Nightbane. No one knows for sure where they come from. Usually one doesn't know that he or she is a Nightbane until the time of the "Becoming". During a period of great need, the first change can occur. Nightbane are indistinguishable from humans (they call this the "Facade"), but they can transform into fierce monstrous bodies (called the "Morphus"). Sometimes known as "The Race with a Thousand Faces", there are as many different forms of the Morphus as there are Nightbane. They also possess the ability to inflict lasting damage on the Nightlords, making the two sworn enemies. Nightbane are rumored to have been instrumental in the first successful defeat and banishment of the Nightlords.
What most people don't know is that "Dark Day" was an event used by a race of beings from neighboring dimension to invade our world. These beings are known as the Ba'al-ze-neckt (Lords of Night), or simply, the "Ba'al". The Ba'al are a race of psychic vampires that feed on the life energy of both humans and Nightbane. Their true origins are a matter of debate; some accounts say they were sorcerers whose cruelty and demand for child sacrifice caused their subjects to revolt, while others claim they were always alien in origin. Whatever the case, it is known that they were banished to the Nightlands thousands of years ago. Now they have successfully weakened the barrier between Earth and the Nightlands and can come and go as they please. The Nightlords possess the ability to manipulate matter for various purposes (their greatest achievements being the creation of their vast fortresses).
The dimension that the Nightlords rule is a warped reflection of our own world. In this world, the rivers run red and the sun never shines. Strange monsters roam vast deserts and barren craggy landscapes. There are reflections of many major Earth cities, stale mockeries of busy metropolitan areas. Roaming these cities are the Dopplegangers, alternates of Earth humans who roam the streets in a daze unless something happens to awaken them (i.e., the will of a greater being, sometimes the death of their human counterpart). It is heavily implied that the wasted nature of the Nightlands is because the Nightlords have long held dominion over it. Most of the races and people that lived here before the Nightlords have been enslaved, slaughtered and mutated into various servants.
- Night Princes: Ba'al-Zebul are the highest ranking minions of the Nightlords and are masters of illusion.
- Avatars: The Ba'al possess the ability to create a being that is a lesser version of itself. These are very powerful and are usually loyal to the Ba'al that created them.
- Doppelgangers: Supernaturally strong copies of humans, they dwell in the Nightlands and live their lives in a haze unless something awakens them. They are considered playthings for the Ba'al if actual humans are not available. They have lower Potential Psychic Energy and minor psychic abilities (but a low incidence of master psionics). They are usually the opposite of their human counterparts on Earth.
- Ashmedai: Shapeshifting worm-like monsters.
- Hollow Men: Bug-like creatures that create humanoid constructs to move about in.
- Hounds: The shock troops, these armored warriors are the core of the Ba'al fighting force.
- Hound Masters elite hounds who can cloak themselves and command others.
- Hunters: Winged versions of the Hounds.
- Great Hounds: A twelve-foot high version of the Hounds.
- Doppelganger Warlord: A more powerful version of the Doppelganger. When a Doppelganger proves itself to their Nightlord Masters, they go through an alchemical process to be transformed into a Warlord.
The guardians are an enigmatic group. Most guardians don't fully understand who or what they are. From what is known, they seem to be normal men and women that have been transformed into supernatural beings with an instinctual desire to help humankind and destroy evil. Most of them remember little or nothing about their previous lives.
They resemble normal humans, although are typically much shorter. They have smooth white skin and hair, and translucent eyes, which often gives them the appearance of being albinos. They have incredible psychic and healing powers, but their most interesting characteristic is their ability to create light that can be used as shields or even blasts of energy that can inflict massive damage on supernatural creatures.
The Athanatos (Greek for "undying") are as much a mystery as the Nightbane. Their "recorded" history states that they were among the first to exist in civilization, and are responsible for encouraging The Dark to become more prevalent in early human history. They, like the Nightbane, are also supernatural shapeshifters with incredible powers. Unlike the Nightbane, however, they can manifest a few of their attributes while still maintaining their human form. They can also use psionics, unlike the Nightbane, and are practically immortal. Each Athanatos has a specific form that they can transform into (also called their Gregorian form), like the Aeras (small, childlike winged beings), Hydros (giant, bipedal sea-horses), Pyros (winged angels made of fire), Choma (powerfully built metallic warriors) and Necrosis (dark beings with black skin and terrible powers). Each Athanatos also belongs to a sub-category that more or less resembles their outlook on life, and belong to either the Celestial or Infernal sects.
Though they are shrouded in mystery, the Athanatos are a powerful ally against The Dark and the Ba'al, but are forced to fight in the shadows while the Nightbane and Guardians battle on the streets. Their need for secrecy is tantamount to their need to fight the Ba'al, but those that find out about the Athanatos can make either a strong friend or destructive foe.
Vampires are a constant threat in this game. Though their numbers are low, the undead are a terrible presence. However, the Nightlords, Nightbane and Guardians all consider the vampires their natural enemy, and often destroy them when encountered.
- Nightbane World Book One Between the Shadows, second printing August 1998
- Nightbane World Book Two: Nightlands, second printing October 1999
- Nightbane World Book Three: Through the Glass Darkly, first printing March 1997
- Nightbane World Book 4: Shadows of Light, first printing April 2003
- Nightbane Survival Guide, first printing July 2009