Thursday, June 16, 2016

Thorough Thursdays: STALKING THE NIGHT FANTASTIC

I'm a few Thursdays behind in my plan to bring back Thorough Thursdays, but I'm glad to finally get back to the series.

This month I want to make a concentrated effort to not talk about Science Fiction, and Superheroes.

In addition to getting back to certain reoccurring theme posts, I was looking to address the fact that although I (like anyone else) have my favorite genres, subjects, and games, I've enjoyed and played a lot of different kinds of RPGs.

One genre that I rarely favor, but which has occasionally resulted in some really fantastic games, is Horror. However, we are looking at a very specific type of Horror - one with a dollop of Funny.

Follow me as I take a long look at a very specific game...


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Prior to this post, I've only tagged Stalking The Night Fantastic, the supernatural Horror-Comedy RPG created by Richard Tucholka, Chris Beiting, and Robert Sadler for Tric Tac Games in 1983, four times before.

I've probably mentioned or alluded to it a few other times.

That's just wrong.





Original 1983 Cover and Third Edition 1990 Cover.
 


This game, and this entry, is a bit of an oddity.

Most of the time, Thorough Thursdays posts focus on a subject very near, and dear to me that for some reason I've never addressed in detail. This was the original idea of the series at least. Take a game, a TV show, a famous person or what-have-you that means a lot to me, realize I haven't ever really talked about that person, or thing, and rectify that situation pronto!

Then there are subjects that I want to discuss because they interest me, but the opportunity to do so just hasn't come up for one reason, or another Sometimes these are even favorite subjects, but they are ones I think about and would love to look at a little more.

Perhaps examine them more...thoroughly? Heheh. Ahem.

Stalking definitely falls into that later category.

STNF is part of a certain breed of game that was very popular in the early to mid-eighties, even if each individual game wasn't hugely popular among the masses. These games all shared the common traits of being cool ideas for RPGs that were then buried under incredibly crunchy, and complex mechanics.

Stalking The Night Fantastic has a number of interesting elements going for it. Not the rules of course, but interesting elements nonetheless.

First off, the overall tone of the game is a little bit tongue-in-cheek. Depending on how you read into it, the setting either has a hint of humor, or it's a downright comedy (best handled as a dark comedy in my opinion).

I personally ran it a bit more on the serious side (believe it, or not), with humor sneaking in through the use of clever, character banter and the occasional oddball NPCs. My take would fall in line more closely with Hellboy comic books than it would, say Ghostbusters (although my later take on Ghostbusters upped the scary factor as well).

The game itself focuses on a super secret organization known as 'Bureau 13' that investigates unexplained phenomena, and protects America from the strange, and supernatural. A mix of Hellboy's B.P.R.D., Men in Black, and the X-Files, the agents of Bureau 13 are not your polished, James Bond type spies. Rather, its field operatives are a mismatched assembly of former soldiers, police detectives, civilian researchers, and other assorted specialists.

In edition to normal men, and women fighting off the denizens of the dark, paranormal  agents were also possible. I recall a Vampire, a Spectre, a Sorcerer, and a Psychic among the various PCs to appear in our campaigns. A friend's campaign featured a Were-Squirrel PC. No, you did not read that incorrectly.





Agent McNamara was killed in action in the Summer of 2013,
and he STILL reports to work on time every morning.
 
What's your excuse?


The adversaries in Stalking The Night Fantastic are incredibly diverse, as well as over-the-top. It is here that you see comedic angle rear it's head in earnest. From the aforementioned Were-Squirrels to a few pun related beasties, truly anything is possible. The classics are still the best of course, and Zombies, Ghosts, Demons, Cult Members, Ancient Gods, Flying Saucers, and creatures like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monsters are all fair game.

I've always felt this game had a lot of potential, more potential in fact than it's notoriety and popularity would elude to. I've run campaigns of it on a few occasions,  and I'm not even entirely sure I achieved the full potential of the game as I imagine it.

There is this amazing place that lies somewhere between Call of Cthulhu, Chill, Ghostbusters, B.P.R.D., the X-Files, and many other related settings that this game is perfect for depicting. The road to that place is hard to find for some reason.

Maybe one moonlit night, somewhere far away from the eyes and thoughts of the unbelievers, I'll find it.


AD
Barking Alien






6 comments:

  1. I have a vague awareness of this game, but it's not one I've played, and I don't know anyone with the book. It looks like just my sort of thing!

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  2. So I did actually own this game (no, I don't have a problem with my completionist tendencies, thank you!) What I remember about the game were rules for rolling what the quality of the Bureau 13 hidden cache was, and ablative armor rules for a heavy sweater (which admittedly was only one point).

    For my gaming group at the time this was decidedly a "like the concept but wary of the rules" kind of game. We talked a lot about what we would do with it, we just never played it.

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  3. Had the rulebook but never played it. Did use several things out of it as inspiration for my D6 "Into The Shadows" campaign from time to time.

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  4. We heavily modified the mechanics in order to play it, largely editing out the unnecessary crunch that bogged down the game as written. In essence we played a significantly simplified version of the game.

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  5. Been aware of this one for a long time but I've never played it. Sounds pretty good though. A lot of these older, smaller games seem like candidates for something like a Savage Worlds or a d6 conversion. Take an existing system, preferably a lighter system, and use it for the setting with the cool idea. Looks like Tri-Tac still exists and did a d20 conversion at some point but that still doesn't seem like the right mechanics for this.

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  6. You didn't mention that the game featured Phil Foglio as the artist, who at the time was best known for the "Phil and Dixie" column in Dragon and the "Myth" series comic books (before he went all porny)

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