Hunter: The Reckoning is a role-playing game taking place in White Wolf’s World of Darkness setting, in which the players are hunters, seeking out and destroying unnatural monsters. It is also the title of a book by the same people about the same setting, containing background story, character creation rules, and game mechanics. For the purposes of this writeup, we will be discussing the book (You know the one; released by White Wolf Game Studio, Bruce Baugh, et al in 4th quarter ’99, 272 page hardcover with an ISBN of 1565047354. Yeah, that one). If you’re looking for information on the other books in the Hunter series, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
This excellent sourcebook, retailing for about thirty bucks (twenty if you buy it now from Amazon!) is split into thirteen parts, as delineated by its table of contents. These parts, and a description of the information contained in them, are as follows:
“Inherit the Earth.”
That is the first line of the book, which then launches into a sort of back story in the form of a website (existing, as far as I can tell, only on the pages of the Hunter books) dedicated to helping hunters -- those imbued with miraculous powers and the ability to see real-to-life (or death, as the case may be) monsters -- to understand who, what, and why they are. It has nothing to do with the mechanics of the game; in fact, most of the first sixty or so pages are purely flavor, a work of fiction to introduce players into the place that is a hunter’s-eye view of the World of Darkness.
Following the fictional preamble, the book credits the creators, authors, designers, editors, playtesters, and so on of the game, including a mysterious “many thanks to Monique Huiet, who helped locate the Innocent within.” The credits page also includes a short disclaimer (This is not real. This is a game. Yadda yadda, the usual “don’t sue us for your warped perception of reality” bit), and White Wolf’s mailing address and phone number, which, for interested parties, is:
735 Park North Blvd.
Clarkston, GA 30021
Followed, on the next page, by the standard book content-listing, the almighty Table of Contents.
The Introduction provides, beginning with that word, a little more in-depth view of the world that is being unveiled, outlining how a role-playing game should be played, complete with a description of a short role-playing session. The World of Darkness is offered as a “Gothic-Punk” setting -- almost the same as the world we live in, but sufficiently darker to make it into viable role-play fodder.
The Introduction also gives a short glossary of terms relevant to the game (such as “Avenger,” “edge,” “puppet,” “Messenger,” and “imbued”), covers the contents of the book (like this writeup, but in a much more condensed format), warns against getting too into the game (as well as suggesting a few ground rules for “safe play”), and list a rather impressive collection of books and movies that could be watched to get a feel for the overall tone of the game.
Chapter 1: The Here and Now (The Hunter Condition)
“It pisses me off.”
Another fictional piece, mainly about a recently imbued doctor (one Dr. Carleton VanWyk), Chapter 1 explores what it must be like to have the blindfold suddenly taken away and realizing that everything you know is a lie. It occasionally breaks away from Dr. VanWyk’s story to present a journal entry or newspaper clipping that involves other hunters, and in doing so, provides several different viewpoints on the same situation.
There are no game mechanics present in this chapter, a refreshing change of pace from the usual jam-packed RPG core rulebook.
Chapter 2: A World of Darkness (Setting)
As a hunter’s point of view on the World of Darkness, Chapter 2 offers some idea as to how the world exists in the eyes of a hunter: how the monsters manipulate society to their own purposes, insight into law enforcement, the underworld, media, business, religion, and the benefits and dangers that such organizations present to hunters.
Once again, there are no game mechanics in this chapter. The actual rules begin in the next chapter, called…
Chapter 3: The Hunter’s Creed (Character Types)
A hunter’s Creed, as defined by the rulebook, is the means that the hunter takes to fulfill his or her Virtue (defined in Chapter 4). There are seven Creeds, each a separate and distinct character type with different (and sometimes conflicting) motivations, points of view, and goals. These seven Creeds are as follows:
Hunters who feel the need to protect humanity from the monsters.
Those who believe in the inherent good of monsters, and that violence should be only a last resort.
Individuals who are charged with the task of judging the monsters: does this one deserve a chance, or should it die here?
Hunters who are ready to sacrifice much, including their lives if need be, to the hunt.
Best stated by the rulebook: We’re here to help. Redeemers are healers, both physical and mental.
The most violent of hunters, those following the Vengeance Creed believe that all monsters need a good ass-kicking.
Visionaries, prophets, crackpots.. the names for hunters proscribing to this creed are numerous. They tend to believe in far-out theories, and make excellent leaders.
This chapter presents all the information needed for a player to choose what type of character they’d like to play in the game.
Chapter 4: I Have Heard the Message (Creation & Traits)
Covering character creation, Chapter 5 details the Trait system, each Trait having a score between one and five, with one being beginner and five being master. It then proceeds to describe the entire creation process from start to finish, beginning with “Character Concept” and ending with “Last Touches.” It also covers such things as Backgrounds, Contacts, Attributes, Conviction, and Knowledges.
In comparison with Wizards of the Coast’s d20 system, the Hunter character creation system is simple and easy to use, something that I appreciated. A beginning player won’t have to pore through the book for hours to decipher a bunch of confusing and sometimes obscure rules.
Chapter 5: The Hunter’s Edge (Powers)
An edge is a power granted to a hunter at his imbuing that allows him to do extraordinary things, beyond the realm of mere humans. Such things are covered in this chapter, including descriptions of each edge (in both story and rules terms), how you get more edges (everybody wants more powers, right?), and what triggers an edge in your hunter.
Some examples are Blaze, which turns a light source into a weapon against unnatural creatures; Insinuate, which forces a monster to view the world as a human views it, usually causing feelings of sorrow or loss; and Ward, which prevents a monster from approaching the hunter using it.
Hunter: The Reckoning’s dice system of d10 (or many d10s, as is usually the case) vs. a difficulty (usually 6) provides a simple way to know how successful your attempt at using an edge (or firing a gun, or using a skill, or just about anything else, for that matter) was. The more dice you beat your difficulty with, the better your success.
Chapter 6: Laws of the Hunt (Rules)
Chapter 6 lays down the law, describing the system’s rules and covering a roll’s difficulty, successes and botches, multiple actions, resisted actions, the whole nine yards. It offers a short glossary entitled “Game Terms” that defines the various terms present in the chapter. The chapter is short, but it contains almost everything a player needs to know about the game mechanics, so short isn’t a problem.
Chapter 7: Tools of the Hunt (Systems)
Chapter 7 goes into the specifics of performing actions (called Feats), such as climbing, driving, intimidating, and so on. These Feats are determined by combining a stat and a skill, which gives you the dice pool that you will roll to determine success. It outlines the combat procedure, damage, defense, and the like. The list of weapons, especially firearms, is rather short, but it gives you enough information to start with.
The chapter also details things called Derangements, which can basically be described as your hunter’s mind cracking under the stress of sharing the world with monsters every day. The chapter is concluded with an extended example of play.
Chapter 8: The Truth (Storytelling)
This rather large chapter give the Storyteller, the person running the game for the players, everything they need to know to successfully run a Hunter game, starting with the Prelude (when hunters are first imbued) and taking it from there. Meaty stuff, and wrapped up very well with a list of “The Ten Commandments”, ten guidelines that a Storyteller should follow to make sure their game runs as smoothly as possible.
Chapter 9: The Enemy (Antagonists)
Containing both a fictional account of one man’s experience with monsters and a sidebar with in-game stats for said monsters, Chapter 9 covers the six types of common monster in the Hunter setting:
The witches and wizards of the world, warlocks control an impressive amount power, in addition to having almost absurd luck.
q.v. Mage: The Ascension
Also known as vampyres, bloodsuckers, and bl__ds_ck_ng fr__ks, vampires are the ruthless night hunters of the World of Darkness, and control a stunning (and deadly) array of powers, incredible strength, and stunning speed.
q.v. Vampire: The Masquerade
- Walking Dead
The walking dead are subdivided into three distinct groups: the hidden, zombies who can pass as living (if somewhat pale and passionless) human beings; walkers, a slowly decomposing motile corpse; and shamblers, a moving mess of rotting flesh and stinking decay. All walking dead possess superhuman strength, and many are lightning fast as well.
Skinny, warty humanoids with pasty skin, goblins can eat anything (including rocks), vanish into thin air, and materialize weapons out of thin air. Most troubling of all, normal people can’t seem to remember having seen them. Even if a gang of goblins mugs a tourist, the poor fellow probably won’t remember much of what happened. Certainly not enough to make a police statement.
Divided into ghosts, poltergeists, and possessors, spirits are the incorporeal dead. They feed on human emotion, and use the tricks in their repertoire to generate such emotions, though not all of their tricks merely tug at heartstrings. A few powerful spirits can kill a person without even touching them.
q.v. Wraith: The Oblivion
Basically, werewolves. Also known as the Garou, shapechangers have two sides to their nature: one is violent and destruction, the other caring and compassionate. They are excellent hunters, can cause a normal person to break down into hysterics at the mere sight of them, and can vanish without a trace when things go wrong.
q.v. Werewolf: The Apocalypse
A collection of useful information for gameplay, this section of the book is divided into three appendices:
- Appendix 1: Hunter Code
A collection of symbols known instinctively to all imbued hunters, the hunter code allows them to communicate with each other without the risk of enemies or defenseless understanding. There is actually a page of twelve hunter symbols, which resemble something like connect the dots.
- Appendix 2: Hunting Gear
A brief discussion on hunter tools of the trade, this appendix gives the lowdown on the weapons and gear that a hunter will need to survive the hunt.
- Appendix 3: Hunter Organizations
A list of four or five groups of hunters that a Storyteller can introduce into his game if he pleases. There are some interesting ideas contained in this appendix.
The epilogue contains a rather lengthy message from a single hunter who questions what he became after imbuing (For the love of God, what are we?), followed by a list of other Hunter products available at a bookstore near you.
All in all, I found this book, and role-playing system as a whole, to be very worthwhile. The artwork left a little to be desired, but that was more than made up for by the quality of its contents. I have little experience with other World of Darkness games, but as an experienced gamer, this system held a lot of appeal for me. Other books available for the Hunter system include Hunter Storyteller’s Companion and the Hunter Survival Guide, among others. So go out, buy it, and become a hunter today.
Inherit the Earth.