Beautiful, lush, lavish. Those are the first words that come to mind when I think of this book. It’s billed as both a Nocturnals setting “bible” (i.e., companion to the graphic novels series) as well as a role-playing game (RPG). It’s a full-color, glossy hardback that includes a ton of Dan Brereton’s art from the various published books as well as a lot of new art, including a complete, all-new graphic story that introduces a new villain group of spectral serial killers. Good stuff all-around, and beautiful to boot. Brereton has also done something interesting and not a little surprising here: he really has given us a true “bible” for the setting, providing a lot of background and other setting and character information that’s never before been revealed in any of the published Nocturnals stories.
Value for gamers: Very high, assuming you want to run a game either set in the Nocturnals universe or running a game in the style of the Nocturnals. Is all the art strictly necessary to run a game set in the Nocturnals universe? No, but it’s certainly evocative. Are the lengthy background write-ups of all the major characters (and many of the minor ones) necessary for a game? Probably not, but again, they’re inspiring pieces and will be highly useful if you want to have any of these characters pop up as either protagonists or antagonists in your game. Mechanically-speaking, it uses the Mutants and Masterminds system, and it’s not a complete game, of course. To use these game stats, you’ll need the Mutants and Masterminds core book. I’d say probably only 15% of the book is devoted to gaming-related stuff, and many of those pages are actually discussions of the main themes, tropes, and inspirations of the Nocturnals universe that should be included in any Nocturnals-style game, so it’s readily adaptable to other systems. We’ve also got ten new pre-generated characters (nine of whom get portraits – where’s the missing one?) who are based on the original Nocturnals characters and provide excellent examples of the slightly different directions that other Nocturnals characters could go.
Value for non-gamers: Extremely high, assuming you are a fan of the Nocturnals. In many ways, I almost see this book as being written primarily for non-gamers. All the gaming-related material (short stat blocks for the characters, a few new feats, etc.) has been ghettoized into a small chapter at the back of the book. All the rest of it is entirely gaming material-free.
This is actually a textbook example of how to produce a role-playing game supplement based on a licensed setting, and if you’re a big fan of the Nocturnals, I recommend it, even if you’re not a gamer, as it will provide you with significant material of interest. I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Review copyright 2010 J. Andrew Byers