"The door in the back of the bar clicked shut softly, and the man pushes his way through the spectating crowd with a grumble. As he gets to the front, ducking under the police tape, he jabs a finger at them. 'Why aren't they out of here?' An officer shrugs. 'We're not allowed to, apparently the senator owns this place.' The detective groaned, flipping out a cigarette to take a few shaky puffs. 'Give me the skinny.' The officer turns, indicating the splattered body on the white carpet. 'Two suspects got into a fight around 6pm. One of them is here, one of them isn't. This is all that was leftover.' You lean forward, taking stock of the scene. A beautiful blond dame is splayed out across the floor, several stab wounds evident on her neck. 'Lover's quarrel?' You pickup her discarded purse and pop it open. Inside it's full of uncut diamonds. 'Or more to it than that...'"
Nightcrawl is a film noir tabletop role-playing game. While quite the mouthful if you're familiar with the terminology it describes the essence of this project. Nightcrawl started as a one shot played among me and some friends, and now I'd like to give it a proper rulebook and bring the fun we had to everyone else!
Set in a big city of your choice from an alternate timeline Nightcrawl is a system that will allow you and any number of friends to play out a detective drama with gripping action, stormy weather, and smooth jazz from the comfort of your home.
From busting insidious mafia crime rings to tracking down the murderer of a famous actress, with Nightcrawl you will be able to run an in-depth and adaptive film noir movie of your very own. If you've ever wanted to wear a duster coat and trilby while you chase down a perp through a dark alley as rain pelts you, firing off sporadic shots from your snubnose revolver in an attempt to stop him, Nightcrawl is the system for you.
What if you want to use a tommy gun instead of a snubnose revolver? Don't worry, Nightcrawl will include a large table of weapons, implements, and other devices to use at your disposal. And if you can't find what you want in these reference tables guidelines will be provided to the DM and players on how to make your own.
There are a lot of big questions that come with this kind of setting, such as what is in the news currently? Are there telephones yet? Is prohibition still in effect? Thankfully due to how Nightcrawl is setup none of these are defacto, and just how many details the DM decides to gloss over in order to make life easier for the players doesn't effect the flow of the game! Unless of course you want it to.
"Their feet splattered the water as they ran, and the man grumbled at his female compatriot, slowed by her progress. 'Did you have to wear stilettos? Today of all days?' She giggled, swinging one of the bags in her grasp in an arc. 'I ain't going to rob a bank without style sweety!' A shot rings out, and a shower of sparks erupts from a sign next to them. 'Dammit, feds, run!'"
Unlike many RPG tabletop systems Nightcrawl employs a wide variety of configurable rules that the DM and players can utilize for the kind of campaign they want.
Would you prefer for your campaign to put emphasis on combat over roleplay? Done! Now every fight may be your last because of a stray bullet through a lung. Or is getting into character and solving a grand mystery more your style? Also done! Now combat is only another means of story progression instead of a bloody shootout to the last man standing.
The game itself plays out in a way familiar to any experienced tabletop enthusiast but is also accessible to those new at the table. Every campaign will have an overarching mystery to be solved, but how the players go about it is up to their actions and how the DM interprets them.
To accomplish their goals players have access to skill checks, which make use of a d20, a relevant attribute of their character, and any experience they have in a particular skill. An example of this would be flipping over a crate. Jill, a detective, has a finesse score of +2 and a climbing skill of +3. So her check would be a roll of 1d20+2+3. The DM will then interpret the number in relation to the difficulty of the task, and describe the outcome. Tasks are "rated" on a numerical scale from 1 - 30, with easier tasks being in the 1-8 range, medium tasks being in the 9 - 15 range, hard tasks being in the 16 - 20 range, and almost impossible tasks falling somewhere in the 21 - 30 range. Of course there will be alternate rules if the DM and players decide to do away with numbers all together, and instead your actions will be rewarded based upon merit rather than hard statistics. The default is a nice balance between the two.
Attributes are hardset character traits such as their brawn and vitality, while skills are related to specific tasks and increase often in relation to their usage. Every time a skill is used the player will receive an amount of experience related to the difficulty of the task. The Nightcrawl system adapts to your character over time though, and what would have been a troublesome task for you before will eventually become quite easy, and by extension you'll gain less experience from it.
Due to this fairly simple setup of handling situations progressing the story and the character actions is always straightforward
In addition to the aforementioned skill checks there's a lot more at a player's disposal to aid them in what they set out to do. During the campaign the players will be able to use the connections they made in previous quests to help solve problems they may be facing. From pressuring contacts into giving up vital information to calling in favors with seedy people from the underground, Nightcrawl's system allows for a wide range of problem solving gameplay.
Along with base set of the rules for how to play Nightcrawl multiple scenarios and a full fledged campaign will be included in the rulebook. These "scenes" will also include a detailed guide for DMs on how to setup their own mystery should they wish to try something on their own.
Can I play a female detective? Can I be a cop instead of just a detective? Can I have a loving family and a day job? Yes, yes, yes! Similar to how some other tabletop systems handle character generation you will have access to prewritten characters, a large variety of character design choices, and massive creative freedom over your character. Due to how Nightcrawl handles the start of a game the DM only has to do minimal legwork in order to keep everything coherent which allows for players to play the character they want to!
"You look up from your book as the door latch clicks. A well dressed man enters, visibly anxious as his hands struggle to remain still. You indicated the seat across from you dismissively, and he quickly takes it. 'Well?' He shoves a case file across the desk. You pick it up, and flip through the first few pages. Male, 25, known drug dealer. 'And? What do you want me to do about this?' The man trembles a final time before slamming his fists on the desk. 'He sold my little brother a toxic drug... And the police have given up on finding him, please, I need your help.' You idly consider it, thumbing through a few more pages. 'What's in it for me?' The man gulps and timidly pulls a thick wad of cash out from under his coat. 'Now we're talking.'"
For those hungry for more there are a few stretch goals for Nightcrawl.
- $1000 - Nightcrawl the base game will be completed. The money will be fully spent towards giving me the time to complete the project.
- $2500 - "The slippery thing crawls out of the vent, writhing towards the man asleep in his bed. Pulling itself up by grasping the sheets it wraps a tentacle around his neck, choking the life out of him inch by inch."
At this goal I'll add optional rules and an extra campaign for a Lovecraftian-esque game!
- $3500 - "Bzzzt! An officer explodes into a fine blue mist, and out of the foggy sky a great steel beam pierces into the ground. A pod pops out of the leg, and it quickly shifts into a bipedal metallic man."
At this goal I'll add optional rules and an extra campaign for a War of the Worlds-esque game!
- $4500 - "An arm grasps for your leg with warped fingers. You kick it off with a shriek, jumping back in terror. Tendons pop out of it, moving by some unseen force to once again pull the mutilated limb towards you."
At this goal I'll add optional rules and an extra campaign for a Night of the Living Dead-esque game!
For an example of the plain character sheet and an unlabeled city map find them below. In the final version of Nightcrawl a stylized character sheet and fully labeled city map will be included for DMs that want to be a bit fancy with their campaigns and/or want to skip the tedious process of making their own city.
It should be noted I've already devised a good portion of the rules for Nightcrawl! Enough to play a oneshot with some friends, but it still needs some work (and to actually be written down in a manner understandable to others), and with this Kickstarter I may be able to bring about that dream.
If you wish to contact me you can send me a Kickstarter message or email me at "email@example.com". I also have a Discord server which you can gain access to by backing. Apologies if there's any delay to my response through the email or Kickstarter message service.
Risks and challenges
To be fully honest about this project and my capability: my artistic skill is often lackluster, this will be my first professional experience with game design, and grammar errors are easy to make. However I plan to make up for these challenges in a variety of ways.
Unbeknownst to a lot of people there are 20+ film noir movies that are now public domain for any kind of transformative use- and a plethora of royalty free art available for commercial projects. For examples of the quality of art that will be present in Nightcrawl you can refer to the previous images in this Kickstarter.
I've also done more campaigns than I can count over the years and several homebrews/oneshots during my time as a DM. I've additionally completed a full NaNoWriMo project, (50k Word Novel) so I'm no stranger to massive amounts of writing or in-depth game design, and I believe I'm ready to take on this project.
As for my writing errors I have access to several editors who have agreed to look over my work and help me improve it.
If this project sounds enticing and you'd like to help me take my first professional step into the world of game design and writing, please fund this Kickstarter.
- (30 days)