Oh, the Scary, Scary Goodness

 So, I'm sure I'm the only one who still plays Tri Tac Games' Bureau 13 - Stalking the Night Fantastic, right? Aside from my game group, I've never encountered another soul in my area who had ever even heard of the game, much less played it regularly.

But play it regularly my group did. I've blogged about our "Stalking" exploits many times in the past. And although I think I've only played it a couple of times in the last several years, my love for it endures. So much so, in fact, that when the mood for a horror game struck me, I ended up going back to Stalking despite spending a lot of time looking over other options, from Palladium's Beyond the Supernatural to Pacesetter's Chill to Mayfair's Chill to the old standby, Chaosium's Call of Cthulhu, and even to other games I've never really latched onto, such as Eden Studios' Witchcraft and GURPS Horror.

I even immersed myself deep enough into a few of these to spend significant time making character sheets and such. But in the end, I couldn't help but be drawn back to Stalking.

To some, this will beg the question: why? And to be honest, that's not an easy question to answer. Many of the games listed above are far superior to Stalking on many levels, from layout to design to game mechanics. Many have much more support, even support that's current and ongoing - something this "dead" game cannot boast. (The version I play was released in 1990.) Many have interesting systems that appeal to me more than some of the systems in Stalking. So why go back to that clunky, goofy, maddeningly laid-out game?

I think part of it comes down to familiarity. I've played the game so much, I can run it in my sleep. (In fact, I'm sure I've literally done so at least once since migrating to the game over three decades ago.) And sure, there's probably a nostalgia factor. I mean, I can't help but fondly recall memorable moments whenever I pick up the book or leaf through one of my two, tattered, held-together-with-duct-tape-and-faith, jam-packed game folders.

But it's deeper than that.

I think one of the big reasons I keep going back to the game, and what drew me to it in the first place, is that it mechanically combines elements I love from many of the games I mentioned above, including but not limited to: a wide-ranging, point-based skill system (GURPS Horror); a fear/horror/sanity mechanic (either Chill game for the fear, Call of Cthulhu for the sanity); a flexible, easy-to-house-rule core system (Beyond the Supernatural); a fairly deep system of magic and psychic powers (Witchcraft); and a "We made this!" care and sensibility (something I always felt from Pacesetter's Chill). All of these things are wrapped into a joyous, fun little package that's presented in a tongue-in-cheek manner that tickles my irreverent side to no end.

(Don't think for a moment, though, that the tongue-in-cheek atmosphere of the game's art and its "Harrison and Friends" examples of play mean the game itself can't be played in a deadly serious vein. It's funny in the way the '80s movie Re-Animator is funny - funny, dark, and deadly.)

Mostly, the game's just fun, in a way that's hard for me to describe.

Any-hoo, that's enough waxing poetic about the game. My real purpose was to share a bunch of artifacts I've produced for Stalking. I decided it was high time to take all of the resources I've made for the game in the last 30-some-odd years and give them an update. I've created tons of character sheets, adventure record sheets, NPC sheets, etc. over the years, and they were in much need of being brought into the modern age.

So, here without further fanfare are a spate of documents for use to anyone out there who still plays this super-unpolished gem of a game:

A revised version of my last character sheet - click to download the PDF,
complete with two backs - one with magic/psionics, and one without


Adventure Recap Sheet - something I wish I had completed for every game I've ever played,
but, alas, only about a half-dozen were ever filled out (although they at least were for Stalking).
Click for the full PDF.

Brutes & Beasts Sheet - a place to keep track of all your non-human nasties.
Click for the full PDF.



Crazies & Cultists Sheet - for your meat sacks, er coffin stuffers, er humans!
Click for the full PDF.

Magic Spell Log, an indispensable resource for the demonulator in the group.
Click for the full PDF.

(Note: I plan to create fillable versions of the PDFs linked above - watch this space!)





Comments

  1. I've played a lot more Fringeworthy than Bureau 13, but I've done at least a bit of all of Tri-Tac's RPGs in years past. So - you're definitely not alone.

    Haven't felt an urge to revisit them in decades, but they were fun back in the day and I bought every novel Nick Pollotta wrote about the Bureau, including tangential stuff like That Darn Squid God. Reading any of those books ought to make any gamer itch to play in the setting. It's the epitome of gonzo urban fantasy.

    Then again, I bought everything he ever wrote when he wasn't wearing the Axler or Pendleton hats, so I may be biased. Even took a stab at adapting MegaTraveller to Illegal Aliens at one point, although I never got far with it.

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  2. Here's at least one other gamer who played this game back in the day. Although I played it under protest because it's not really my genre. I think we did just one short adventure.

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  3. I can't remember where or when I purchased my copy of Stalking the Night Fantastic, but it was in the 1980s and it was before I met Richard Tucholka at a small local gaming convention where told him I saw Pat Robertson on television holding a copy of the game and calling it "Dungeons & Dragons." I'm not sure if he was angrier that his game was being called satanic or that it was being confused with D&D. At any rate, I read the rule book multiple times, but never managed to run it, much to my regret.

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  4. Huh. I’ve never owned, read, or played Bureau 13...but then, I haven’t played many (any?) horror RPGs despite owning at least half a dozen or so (including multiple editions of CoC and BTS).

    I’ll be honest: despite not being a horror fan, I can run these types of game but I have an INCREDIBLY difficult time finding players that want to play them. In all seriousness: they get scared and (often) squeamish, whether you’re talking kids or adults. I have literally given players nightmares just running a pickup game of (the supposed-to-be humorous) InSpectres and I’ve made players extremely uncomfortable with just a mild dose of Vampire.

    Truly, I’m not sure where the market for these games comes from...it’s certainly not the demographic I’ve pal’d around with the last 27-28 years!

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    Replies
    1. Bureau 13 is only a scary horror game if you work to make it a scary horror game. The setting is pretty tongue in cheek about a lot of things, self-describes as "satirical" for good reason, and definitely not as doom-and-gloom as, say, Call of Cthulhu or Chill. If you want a look at the way the designer probably expected games to run, see if you can grab a copy of any of the Nick Pollotta novels for the setting. There was also a B13 webcomic, but the name of its eluding me.

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  5. *sigh* Which is me just talking about myself. Sorry.

    What I meant to say is: don’t apologize for the system you like...celebrate the fact that you found a system that sings for you and your players. Just doing that can be hard!

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