Hunter: the Reckoning - Player's Guide by Aethyron
Prologue, IntroductionOriginal SA post Hunter: the Reckoning - Player's Guide
Part One: Prologue, Introduction
So, I don't have a lot to add to Night's prior review of the Hunter corebook (https://projects.inklesspen.com/fat...-the-reckoning/), which does a very good job assessing the strength(s?) and weaknesses of the line- mostly, an intensely compelling hook vs an at-best deeply confused text where the mechanics, art, fiction, and play advice are all at odds with each other. Obviously it's not exactly the review I would have written but I agree with it pretty completely.
I've been a fan of World of Darkness stuff for I don't know, decades, but it's been a very long time since I read any old WoD stuff and I'm let's say curious to see how it holds up to a more critical reading than a 15 year old's.
A quick refresher: Hunters, or 'the Imbued' are normal, non-supernatural people who were going about their lives in a world secretly full of monsters until one day mysterious beings (the Messengers) suddenly start shouting in their heads about things that DO NOT LIVE and suddenly you realise that that couple in the alley over there is actually a vampire drinking someone's blood. This is the Imbuing. Faced with this moment, the people who act become Hunters, empowered with supernatural Edges, and the Second Sight- the ability to see monsters no matter how well they try to hide or pretend their people (and also immunity to illusion and mind control, which is key). People who don't act become Bystanders. No powers. No Sight. Just the terrible knowledge that, yeah, Vampires are out there. We'll get back to them later.
There are the requisite White Wolf character splats, the Creeds, divided up based on your approach to the hunt. Zeal Creeds are more militant, more inclined to violence, and are Avengers, Defenders, and Judges (aka the best Creed and the best Edges). Mercy Creeds are a bit more confused, but tend to be less violent, more open to the idea of trying to help and heal monsters instead of universally condemning them and they are: Innocents (who I still honestly don't really get), Martyrs, and Redeemers. Lastly, there are the Vision Creeds, who are just trying to figure out what the hell is going on, and are Visionary and that's it... in the corebook! Because there are two more Vision creeds, the 'lost' creeds that you needed to buy more books to know about. Fortunately, one of those books is the Player's Guide so, well, we'll get to them too. Hunters from different Creeds (especially Zeal vs Mercy) tend to not get along.
Right, that's enough (too much?) preamble, it's time to get into this thing. Welcome to the Hunter Player's Guide. Buckle up, there's gonna be stuff.
I don't know what is happening in this picture, someone please tell me.
Send therefor now, and gather thy cattle, and all that thou has in the field; for upon every man and beast which shall be found in the field, and shall not be brought home, the hail shall come down upon them, and they shall die.
We open, inevitably, with fiction. The prologue, 'Lonely Home' is about 7 pages long and tells the story of a Hunter, Kathy, who comes home after being out all night trying to deal with a ghost and is now exhausted, injured and just wants to get some rest please. We learn that she has a son- hilariously, this child is introduced when he enters the scene as "her son" followed by like 8 paragraphs that simply refer to him as 'the boy'. Is that how parenting works? Ah, the boy needs breakfast. Come with me, the boy, and we will make pop tarts (the boy's name is Bradley, if you were wondering). Wild.
Kathy next encounters her husband, Mark, who confronts her in the belief that she's been having an affair, a sequence filled with fun and well written sentences like "He paused for a second, savoring the silent tension like he was delaying an orgasm". They argue, Mark goes to work and then Kathy flashes back to last night when she visited a haunted house with another Hunter, calls him up and announces that they're just gonna burn the fucking place down and see if that works. Alas, Kathy doesn't notice that the ghost maybe followed her home.
It's not great. It's not utterly excruciating. Crucially, it's not really about hunting any goddamn monsters. Most of the story is focused on how tired and injured Kathy is and how hunting has destroyed her life and family, with the added bonus chaser that her plan to burn down the haunted house is maybe not going to work. Opening up the Player's Guide to Hunter: the Reckoning, we have a story with neither hunting nor, uh, reckoning. This is going to be a Thing.
I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh, for, just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.
The Introduction gets off to a great start by informing us that Hunter: the Reckoning is the game for playing the common, non-monstery folk of the World of Darkness. Indeed, finally we now have a chance to play 'the lowly victim of monstrous predation' (interesting take). You had a life, job, family, etc. You could still have that life but now you're forced to see the horrible things that prowl the shadows and prey on the unwitting, the book informs us, before grudgingly admitting that maybe you can use your strange new powers to uh do something about that? Nobody will believe or understand or help you, except maybe other hunters. "Now you must cope with a life and perhaps fate that is far from mundane, despite your humblest desires".
So: common folk, lowly victims, humble desires. Just let me go back and look at the cover art for a moment... yes, this all checks out.
The book also helpfully reminds us that this book, and other supplements will help us create our pathetic normal (I so wish I could organically include the book's phrasing of how we can create "the character - the person - we want") so that we can watch contact with the supernatural turn their life upside-down. This book is full of new rules, guidelines, possibilities, options, and Traits. All the supplements are good, but this one is dedicated to us and our
Other things we will find are the Lost Creeds, the ones we didn't put in the corebook because uhhhhhhh there's so few of them. Hermits, who isolate themselves from society, and Waywards who are just all kill all the time oh boy you thought Avengers liked killing you poor naive child no: Waywards are "murderers, assailants and psychopaths of an almost perverse magnitude".
Oh, but oops while the Creed profiles for our new friends are here, we'll have to buy Hunter Book: Hermit and Hunter Book: Wayward in order to really learn about them and get their Edges and such, sorry. Yeah, you don't actually get any Hermit or Wayward powers in this book as far as I can tell. Good luck playing one, I guess.
Finally, we get the actual list of the chapters. Apparently the Hermit and Wayward bits don't qualify as a chapter of their own, so even though they're coming up next we have Chapter 1: Bystanders, Chapter 2: Rules of Engagement., Chapter 3: New Traits, Chapter 4: The Measure of Humanity (uh oh), and Chapter 5: Make Your Own Fate.
edit: somehow I overlooked that each of these chapters opens with a bible verse so I'm going to go back and throw 'em up there. I don't actually really know much of anything about the bible so if anyone else can offer commentary there that'd be great.
Coming up: Hermits and Waywards and Bystanders, oh my!
Hermits & WaywardOriginal SA post Hunter: the Reckoning - Player's Guide
Part Two: Hermits & Wayward
Chapter... Half: The 'Lost' Creeds
Shut up. Please, shut up. You're not making this any easier.
(oops its fiction time again)
William is a Hermit. It's late at night, and he's going to the grocery story. Nobody is around, which pleases him. He seems nervous about the idea of encountering people. He gets his groceries quickly, pays for them, and leaves before anyone else can show up. Unfortunately as he's walking home he hears loud agry voices and sees a group of teenagers trying to get some change from an older businessman type. William freezes, horrified (presumably because he knows what's coming although the wording doesn't rule out the possibility that he just can't believe the nerve of these dang kids). That's when the wind picks up and he hears DEATH LOOMS followed by a sudden storm of voices and images overwhelming him. William screams, and sees that the businessman is actually a corrupted, rotting thing, yells out that he has a knife to scare the teens off and then everyone basically runs away, leaving the intense pain in William's head to start to subside once the monster is gone.
Hermits used to be good communicators. Good listeners. People that you'd turn to. Not anymore. It's the voices, you see. Other Hunters might get a bit of the Messengers shouting in their brains; Hermits get overwhelmed. Even the Imbuing is like opening a floodgate. Being around other Hunters makes it worse. Being around Hunters equals a barrage of signs and messages but unfortunately it's so overwhelming and painful that actually doing anything with it is nearly impossible. Being around monsters is worse than that. Most Hermits inevitably retreat from society. They tend to still be pretty good at gathering information, as long as it's not in-person. Hermits tend to be good at Perception and other mental traits, as well as Knowledges, but aren't very social. Every hermit has the Patron Background (how loud the Messengers shout) at 3 automatically and can buy it up to 4 or 5 like they were buying dots 1-2. They also start play with a derangement 'that hampers social interaction considerably' such as Hysteria, Manic-Depression, or Paranoia and
Trying to unpack the way WoD Stuff handled.......... (sigh) "derangements" is just... I don't even know where to begin. Everything about it is just so so bad.
Worse still is that the Hermit's brain pain is also represented by +1 to the difficulty of all rolls when they're within 100 feet "or so" (helpful) of monsters or other Imbued. They have a starting Conviction of 3 (low) and trend towards Vision and Mercy Edges.
There's also the standard white wolf sidebar of Hermit stereotypes about other Creeds, although the Hunter: the Reckoning versions of this do have one running joke that I actually kind of like.
See, in one of the fiction pieces in the Hunter Corebook, a Hunter goes on some talk show or something and demonstrates his Edges live on air which of course leads to his arrest and later death when he tries to escape. The funny bit is that each of the different Creed stereotype boxes reference this incident, but none of them can agree on what Creed the guy was a member of (Hermits think "that maniac on TV" was a Wayward btw).
Playing a Hermit is a bit of a niche choice but I can see how some interesting stuff might come out of it. Personally, I'd lose the mechanical penalty when they're around other Hunters (keep the idea that it hurts if you want but not the +1 difficulty). It's not for everyone, certainly. Moving on!
We don't judge. We send the wicked to Him for that. Get in the way and you can go be judged, too.
as an apology for showing you the book cover, here's a bit of art that I actually like- wait wasn't there something about Hunters being all average and ?
The Wayward from our fiction piece doesn't get named (it's first-person) but I'm pretty sure it's the main signature Wayward whose Hunter-Net (remember how Hunters have their own 90s-era website?) handle is God45 and whose real name I have sadly forgotten (I'm like 99% sure he's also the guy in the picture above). Not that it really matters.
While running an "errand" The Wayward an unusual collection of people and spots a Hunter sign on one of their bags (remember also how Hunters have a cool code that only they can read). The Wayward approaches them as a fellow hunter, pointing out that a group including a 'nerdy kid' and a 'soccer mom' needs to make some effort to look like they belong together, and finds out that they're observing a 'lost soul' that they think they can help. The Wayward is not having any of that shit, but bluffs them and tags along. They go into an alley and the soccer mom goes ahead to try to speak with the monster that's hiding out there. When she does, the Wayward does something that feels like pouring fury into soccer mom causing her to snap and attack the monster. She dies, but it prompts the others to actually fight and the Wayward opens up with his shotgun. After finishing the monster, he realises that one of the other Hunters is still alive when she gasps out 'why?'. The Wayward's answer? "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live, remember?"
It doesn't really matter who Waywards used to be. What matters is what they know- more importantly, what other Hunters just don't get. To quote the book:
"The others just don't get it. This isn't some sort of intellectual exercise that's up for debate. Monsters are not sad, sympathetic creatures. This isn't even a war. In war, there are codes and conventions, rules and regulations. This is the last desperate struggle to survive in the face of utter evil. Half-measures won't do. You can't afford to be squeamish or worry about ethics. The monsters and all the other scum have to be destroyed, every last one of them. No matter what the cost. Even if it takes the last drop of blood of every person on Earth, it'll still be a bargain. At least we'll know that none of them are left."
Waywards are pretty intense (I think that reference to "monsters and other scum" is talking about people who help monsters but it's something maybe you'd want to specify there). Maybe other hunters don't understand because they don't have the clarity that Waywards have. Other hunters have to choose to see. Waywards can't choose not to. From the moment of their Imbuing, Waywards have the monster-detecting aspect of their Second Sight on all the time. And when you can See All The Time, it's hard to pretend anything else matters. That anything from your old life is important. It also makes it hard to care about things like collateral damage. Because Waywards don't know when to stop, don't believe there's such a thing as going 'too far'. So they don't charge in guns blazing. They fight dirty. Really dirty. They set fires, shoot through human shields and never ever trust anyone. When they do charge in, they make sure that someone else is ahead of them to catch a bullet because Waywards can't afford not to live to fight another day.
(The Wayward Standard White Wolf Stereotypes Sidebar thinks that 'that idiot on Television' was an Innocent)
Waywards concentrate on physical attributes, combat and survival skills. They like Vision and Zeal edges. All Waywards have permanent Sight (but they still have to pay to activate the mind-control immunity). Interestingly, Waywards can never buy any of the Edges that allow them to differentiate between types of monsters. All monsters are monsters to the Wayward. Waywards....
Waywards also start play with a derangement such as Megalomania, Multiple Personalities, Fugue, or Schizophrenia "that, in their case, makes them violent and desensitized to suffering."
Apart from that deeply unfortunate moment, though, Waywards are rad as hell. Not a Creed I would advocate including in every game, certainly. I'd want to talk that one over with the rest of the group for sure. But if you want to play a guy who is absolutely. Going to kill. Every. Last. One. OF THOSE GOD DAMNED VAMPIRES. NO MATTER WHAT. We have a Creed for that. Your starting Conviction is 4.
(I can absolutely understand why some people would really not want to play a game with another PC who is effectively a compulsive killer, don't get me wrong. It's a niche, though. A fucked-up antiheroic-at-best niche. They'd also work pretty well for an antagonist-Hunter which is a recurring thing in the fiction.)
I wish I could remember more from the Wayward Creed book but sadly it's been like a decade since I read it.
So, those are the Lost Creeds. I like them, but they absolutely need to be used carefully. A Hermit player really needs to know what they're getting into and the ST really needs to make the fact that they're mechanically disadvantaged not just prevent them from ever doing anything. I remember they had some pretty cool Edges, but I couldn't tell you what they are sadly. A Hermit also works pretty well as an NPC ally, an informant type, or as a way to sort of show off
Waywards, meanwhile, really need everyone to be okay with them to be present it a game, but make excellent antagonists and shit-stirrers. Honestly, also, when you see the way that the line talks about making sure not to have your Hunter be in danger of being too heroic or competent, it is refreshing as hell to be able to turn back to Creed: Fuck It, Kill Everything. Less facetiously, the idea of a character with constant unending monster-detection on is cool as hell.
At the risk of too much commentary, another thing that I find pretty interesting about the Lost Creeds is what they imply about the greater Hunter situation and the Messengers. Not knowing what the fuck is going on with the Messengers and being a little bit paranoid about it is a big part of my preferred Hunter take, and the addition of the Lost adds the fascinating wrinkle that not only do Hunters not know what the Messengers are up to but also their plan seems to be a little bit... broken. Think about it. Hermits and Waywards both have obvious functions for the greater Hunter struggle (the Reckoning, if you will) but at the same time they don't... work. Hermits presumably should be getting direct contact, possibly even specific strategic instructions from the Messengers but the feed is too much so they can't make sense of it. Waywards being rabid doesn't make sense given the existence of Mercy creeds. No other Creed is messed with like that, but why create Hunters who are basically guaranteed to hate some of the other types? To me, those kinds of questions that can be asked in-character make the game more interesting.
Edit: Like, seriously, look at Waywards and then think about the fact that both the Corebook and (we'll get there) the Player's Guide have big screeds of "advice" insisting that you mustn't dare to make your Hunter any sort of competent action hero, anything other than a scared average guy who doesn't know how to fight and won't just jump into battle and so on and so on. "Scared average person confronts secret world of monsters" isn't the worst hook I would play that game, but when people talk about Hunter: the Reckoning's confusion of tone it's because of shit like this (and the art).
Lastly, I know I said I would be doing Bystanders as well in this section but the post got a little long and uh I found some stuff so I feel like it should probably be it's own post.
Coming up: Bystanders, but for real this time.
BystandersOriginal SA post Hunter: the Reckoning - Player's Guide
Part Three: Bystanders
Chapter 1: Bystanders
I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments.
This chapter opens with a way too long fiction piece about Alison, a woman who is a Bystander and also living with her vampire husband, with flashbacks to how a vampire broke in and turned him, which was her failed Imbuing as she was unable to kill the man she married. So, instead, he drinks some of her blood. She then starts buying rabbits for him to feed on, which is expensive. As time goes on, Vampire Richard starts becoming more and more controlling and abusive with Alison and their son. Then there's a Hunter-Net post: She's killed her monster husband. She needs to know how to hide the body. This is where we are introduced to my ancient and eternal nemesis: huge chunks of White Wolf fiction written in some difficult to read handwriting font. They do this constantly and I hate it I hate it so much. The first part, detailing how Alison found her way to Hunter-Net and how contact with other Imbued made her wonder why she can't see things like they can is just in a 'this is her computer journal' font that is legible, but annoying. The next part, well.
This is honestly one of the least bad examples and I still don't want to read paragraphs of it in a printed book I paid for. They switch fonts to indicate a different character. This guy's story is about how he's running after "they" (the Messengers) tried to get inside his head and infect him, and whatever you do don't play along just run. The next story, in is the testimony of Lawrence Allen Parker, explaining to a detective and psychiatrist how one night he went out looking for his daughter Natalie, finding her hanging out with a group of teens led by a guy who for a moment seemed to have something wrong with his teeth which scared Parker. He took her home, but she seemed to be obsessed with the guy. Parker wanted to kill him but couldn't do it. Natalie left, claiming that she didn't want to live with the cattle anymore. Parker went back to the park and started shooting them. They weren't people anymore. But then he saw Natalie and stopped. She turned him in to the cops. He gets sent to an asylum. All three of these stories: Alison dealing with the aftermath of killing her vampire husband, Parker's thing, and handwriting guy uh being paranoid and running away are intertwined. Parker's is probably the most interesting?
The takeaway, as the next section explains, is that not everyone reacts well in a crisis. Some people have the combination of courage and selflessness. Some people freeze. The shock of the Imbuing is worse, because not only do potential Hunters have to act in a stressful and horrifying situation but they also have to face the whole 'monsters are real' thing. The Messengers don't seem to have any time for people who hesitate.
Those people are usually called Bystanders, or Duds by more uncharitable hunters. A lot of Hunters don't have any time for them, looking at people who see the danger yet don't do anything with scorn. But even the best people can be caught off guard and have a bad moment and just freeze. And then the monster is gone, and everything seems normal. Most Hunters assume that Bystanders just forget and go on with their lives (the book actually says "go back to being docile members of the herd" which, wow). The truth is that mostly they're haunted by the experience. They replay it over and over. Some try to convince themselves it wasn't real, or that they're crazy. Others admit the terrible truth. Monsters could be anywhere. Bystanders have no Sight, no Edges, and they don't know who to turn to.
Then the book goes on to restate the idea that while a Hunter might look at the Imbuing as pass/fail where failures go back to being "just another member of the witless masses", that's actually a profound misconception. The Imbuing shows you a truth you can't deny. It's irrevocable. The question isn't if you are changed, but how. Bystanders can't act the way Hunters can, but at the same time they're a little less alienated from normal life because Seeing isn't an option for them. They're also far more vulnerable. They don't get any of the Hunter protections from mind control etc. And if this whole paragraph feels like I'm restating the one above it's because this section is like that. Apparently Bystanders can meet a person's eyes and recognise the shared trauma of the Imbuing, which I don't think is ever really referenced again or mechanically supported in any way. This isn't always a good thing, as it can lead them into the clutches of unstable hunters who will manipulate them into becoming sacrificial lambs for their goals. In one infamous event, a prominent Hunter called Memphis68 (Hunter-Net tag) used a bystander as a human bomb in order to kill a particularly well-protected Vampire. Most Hunters would denounce that, but others blame Bystanders for being Bystanders
A lot of Bystanders don't know that Hunters even exist- think out it. If you face the Imbuing alone and fail, you might never realise anyone else had had that experience. Then there's some words about how the Imbuing is mostly the same for Bystanders as it is for Hunters but they hesitate instead of acting which is really something I feel like we're already clear on by now.
There's some stuff about how Hunters get to define themselves by what happened during their Imbuing but Bystanders can't. There's a text box about how the easiest way to end up with a Bystander character is someone deciding they want to play one in advance, but if you waaanted the Storyteller could run the Imbuing like a regular session and "if you can't think of something to do right away, or your character hesitates for any reason" oops, the Storyteller can decide your a Bystander. This approach is true to the game because the Messengers are also very arbitrary and it "can help you identify with the resentment" your new Bystander would feel. It's a part of the thing from the corebook where the ST assigns people to creeds based on how they roleplay the Imbuing which is a deeply bad idea there and a catastrophically bad one here. In fairness I should note that they do say that the Storyteller and Players should all agree to this approach in advance and ultimately everyone should enjoy their character and have fun, but on the other hand this idea is so garbage. It's also pointed out that Bystander =/= any person who happened to be nearby during an Imbuing. Bystanders fail to answer the call, but they are called. Other people who just were there can't even become Bystanders. They're "the human masses".
I actually tried this kind of approach once or twice in high school and maybe it was just my group but it really seemed like there's not actually any kind of natural way to roleplay a reaction while at the same time not force-fit your behaviour to a Creed. If you know what the Creeds are you pretty much know what kind of reactions fit which Creed (or you wanted to play an Innocent for some reason and now what the hell do you even do?) That, and the post-Imbuing freakout that the game desperately wants you to play, just became tedious chores to get through before you could engage with the actual Hunting and Reckoning.
Anyway, a lot of Bystanders don't react very well to their situation but they're stuck with it and generally over time end up falling into one of three general categories: Aggressive, Cautious, or Fearful. There's a lot of words explaining these, and talking about how a Bystander might be motivated to act in one way or another by fear or guilt or growing confidence. It's not terrible information but it is pretty padded, especially because we already got a lot of it earlier.
Sometimes Bystanders find Hunters or even end up on Hunter-Net. They can end up being allies because powers or not, just talking to someone who knows what you know is a relief. Bystander groups tend to be a lot less contentious then Hunter team-ups as they're less ideological and more dependent on mutual support. Most Bystander groups are very tiny, grassroots organisations that don't operate outside their city or neighbourhood, dealing with their own immediate problems. Relationships between Bystanders and Hunters can be rocky and we get the suggestion that some Bystanders might not see much difference between Hunters and monsters and to be fair, some hunters (God45, Memphis68) are pretty callous with Bystanders and, well, bystanders. Still, Bystander/Hunter teams are definitely a thing. Bystanders may not have powers but they can still gun. Or drive a getaway car. Do research. Plant a bomb. Etc. Bystanders can act as a pretty good support system for the Imbued.
Well, that was a lot of restating the same ideas. Yikes. Now it's time for some actual rules. Specifically, how to create a Bystander.
Basically, instead of getting Hunter Virtues (I was much happier when I had forgotten about Virtues being a thing in the oWoD), Bystanders get Courage, Reason, and Self-Control. There are a lot of examples of when they might have to roll these, most of which boil down to "saw monstery stuff". If they fail, they lose Conviction, which is bad. Yes, Bystanders also have Conviction, but it's... different.
So, Bystanders start with 10 Conviction. They can't really do anything with it, though, it's just there as a SAN bar now. Yes, Derangements are back, because Bystanders get Derangements when their Conviction drops to 3, 2, and 1 (or existing ones get worse). Lose your last point and you snap. When a point of Conviction is lost, you can't get it back in play or by spending xp. Once per game session you can trade a point of a Virtue to regain 1 Conviction which is a temporary solution at best because now it's harder to succeed on Virtue rolls to avoid losing more Conviction. There's no indication that boosting your Conviction back up gets rid of Derangements though. Oh, but you can buy Virtues back with xp at a price of [current score x 2] so that's something? Seems needlessly circuitous to me, but at least that's on-brand with the rest of the chapter. There's also a bit where Bystanders can spend Willpower to try to resist the terror of a supernatural experience but you still have to make a Virtue roll to maybe lose Conviction. It's also mentioned that when a Virtue roll happens the difficulty is 7, but Storytellers should modify that up or down depending on the circumstances. There is no guidance on what kind of circumstances should do modify the difficulty or by how much. I don't know why Conviction is so weirdly overloaded as a stat but between this and regular Hunter use there are like 8 different things it's very important for.
Bystanders also get a few other special abilities and it turns out that yes there are actual game rules for detecting someone else's Imbuing trauma, I was just wrong before. Dammit. A Bystander can make a difficulty 6 Perception roll to see that someone else has seen what you've seen. It's noted that maaaybe Hunters could do this if they thought to try but mostly they have better ways to find each other (hunter-net, hunter code). They also can spend a Willpower point to block mind/emotion-altering powers on them, although it might not be possible if they're unaware of the attempt which, since they can't detect monsters, is not great for them.
Now, finally, we actually run through the steps of Bystander creation but uh attributes/skills/backgrounds/freebies are all the same as Hunters so I'm not going through it again. The section is pretty much standard White Wolf chargen stuff. There are a couple of new Natures and Demeanors (Believer, Negotiator, Skeptic) and a new Background (Archive) that Hunter characters can also use. They also run through how Bystanders might use some Backgrounds from other books, including the Steel Nerves Background from Creed Book: Judge. Naturally, they explain how maybe a Bystander could have this, but you'll have to buy the Judge book to learn what it actually does. Thanks, Player's Guide!
Lastly, there's a little taste of Bystander-exclusive Merits & Flaws (the main list is coming, don't worry). They mostly just give you an extra piece of the Hunter package like being able to read Hunter code or see through illusions, stuff like that. If anyone's unfamiliar with this mechanic, Merits and Flaws can be bought with your Freebie Points. They, uh, give you benefits or penalties. You can also take extra Flaws to get more points to buy other stuff, which I'm sure has never been horribly exploited by anyone. There are a few funnier ones though:
-Haggard Appearance (1 point flaw): You look so stressed and terrible that your Appearance drops permanently by one, you can't ever raise it again and all Social rolls are +1 Difficulty which is A. Lot. for 1 measly point.
-Nervous Condition (2 point flaw): Your hands shake, because of the trauma. All Dex-based actions are +1 difficulty but if you're extra stressed maybe it's up to +3. Also +1 if you're shocked. Penalties are cumulative.
-Broken Health (3 point flaw): The trauma of the Imbuing has physically wrecked you. You get -2 Stamina, which again cannot be improved by XP or Edges, and Stamina rolls are +1 difficulty.
The book tries to tell you that you shouldn't take more than one Bystander Merit and one Bystander Flaw which is probably wise. But less funny.
I'm going to skip over some stuff talking about the Prelude again and instead mention a sidebar that a) drops the phrase "docile, ignorant masses" and b) says that if someone in your game chooses to play a Bystander, make sure to still make them an active part of the game. Don't squeeze them and their character out because they lack Hunter powers, which is nice to see. Yes, let's all remember to be good to each other when we're gaming. We're all here to have fun and if someone's fun is playing a less potent character, don't punish them for that. That's nice, book. This section may have been repetitive and wordy, but that's a nice bit of advice. Well done.
Now, to turn the page and look at some sample Bystander characters.
OH COME THE FUCK ON
Really? Really. We're going to do this. We're actually going to fucking do this. COOL. So, yes. There is a whole page of backstory and roleplaying hints for the "Former Skinhead" including fun little tidbits like how his old Reverend called him "a paladin of the white race" and just a whole bunch of other shit that I fucking do not want to retype. Turns out the Reverend was a monster or something. And yes, there is a picture, and yes the guy in the picture is shirtless and you can see his swastika tattoos. In fact "various white-pride and Nazi tattoos" are mentioned in his Equipment list. We're also told that "ironically, [his] experience with the supremacists gives [him] an interesting perspective on the imbued and their extreme attitudes towards monsters" which I'm honestly not sure I've ever wanted to tell a book to fuck off more, and I feel kinda bad about retyping. There's definitely a character sheet.
They commissioned art for this. Someone saw this sample character and was like "yes, make sure to get a picture of the skinhead to put in the book and make sure we see all the tattoos". And then more people saw it and let the book go out like that and they shipped it to stores not just in America but other countries and it sat on shelves and I bought one and then I guess never bothered to read this section because I absolutely don't remember this being there. Fuck. It really should not have been hard to avoid suggesting that you roleplay a nazi.
Oh and spoiler alert this is not actually the last time the book will do something like this. But we'll get there.
ANY-FUCKING-WAY, the other sample characters are the 'Revolutionary Student' an outspoken leftist activist college girl who is full of regret, shame, and helplessness for failing to stand up and act the one time it actually mattered because "how do you protest something that simply can't be?" when she was out with her friends and ran away when she saw monster "putting the moves on one of the girls" who died later that night. Her equipment list is: 'student card, mace, ballpoint pen, and 240 signatures so far'.
We also have 'Security Guard', 'Home-Shopping Channel Host' and 'Tomboy'. They're fine, I guess.
There's also Notable Bystanders, like Alison Hersy aka Rabbitkeeper377 she of the abusive vampire husband. She's mostly on Hunter-Net, trying to pass on what she knows about vamps. Then Stephen Lambert, aka Moderator87 who revealed his name, phone number and the fact that his wife was crippled in his failed Imbuing because I guess he wants to die? He tries to gather and pass on information but how would any Hunter ever trust anything coming from him? Also, he's blind? Lastly, there's Martin Soldan who is not on Hunter-Net but tries to help out Imbued in Miami and/or convince them that they're blessed by God.
And that's Bystanders. They actually fill an interesting space in Hunter, and although I didn't really cover it much I do actually think they did a good job with giving them a bunch of merits to fine-tune which parts of the Hunter power-set your Bystander ended up with. It's too bad that most of the other Hunter books largely forget they exist. It's also too bad that they're largely crowded out of their conceptual space by the never-ending insistence that regular Hunters be helpless and terrified- an idea I'll come back to a bit later, but let's just say that when the writing already wants it to be hard for you to engage with the main game concept of actually hunting monsters, having a splat that's just That, But More ends up feeling weirdly redundant. Weirdly redundant also stands for my assessment of the writing in this chapter which spends a lot of time giving you the same information in different ways. It does a good job explaining Bystanders, don't get me wrong, but then it does it again, and again, and again. There's also the weird double-standard of the game absolutely demanding that you play an average person while also being dismissive and contemptuous whenever it talks about the, ugh, "herd".
Oh, and also whoever wrote those sample characters can get fucked.
Coming up: Variant character creation rules
Variant SystemsOriginal SA post Hunter: the Reckoning - Player's Guide
Part Three: Variant Systems
Chapter 3: Rules of Engagement
To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might be all means save some.
We're off to a great start when the first paragraph opens by telling us that the rules of a proper Storytelling game are secondary to the story and how much fun you have telling it, which is kind of not the most encouraging sentiment coming from the people who were writing the rules in the first place. This chapter is about new ways to create/develop characters. Are any of them good? Let's find out.
The 'Customizing Character Creation' section opens with a half-page of fiction about two Hunters, Wayne and Kate, who are actually on a hunt this time (so that's nice) only for Vampires to burst in and kill them.
We're reminded that the Hunter character creation numbers (6/4/3 11/7/4 etc) are the standard system for creating normal, mundane people which is what Hunters are arguably even after they're Imbued (uh, no?). They're going to give us some alternate options if that's more fun for us, but the book wants to be very clear that these options are so that you can explore your character identity in more depth and have more layers of personality, like maybe you can have a higher Linguistics to indicate that you've worked abroad in multiple countries. The new options are absolutely not intended to let you make some guy with 5 Strength, 5 Firearms, and 5 Arsenal.
Which you could absolutely already do anyway- and also do you guys not realise that you made Dex the god-stat? Seriously, normal Hunter rules give you 21 freebie points. You'd only have to spend like 16 of them to get there. But doing that is missing the opportunity to play an interesting character. You know, one that's bad at stuff.
We're told that Hunters get "wimpy mortal" stats because playing a "weak" character isn't a deficit for proper roleplay and doesn't have to ruin your fun, which would sound better if the system had ways to engage with "weak" characters other than having them just fail to do anything. But most characters shouldn't be effective in a fight because most 'actual, everyday' people aren't and don't you use these extra points to make "a special-forces-trained-killer-turned-spy-cum-professional-wrestler" which is one hell of a phrase.
So, what are these dangerously powerful new rules? The first option is just to give characters the same starting points as other gamelines get, ie: 2 extra Attribute points, 5 extra Ability points, and 2 more points for backgrounds. Truly, I would not have guessed that the difference between system-wrecking action hero and meek mundane was so slight.
They also suggest that you could go totally overboard and do 15/10/5 for Abilities (up from, let's remember, 11/7/4) and a mighty 35 (instead of 21) freebie points. Oh, but be careful about the game's balance. Having 8 more Ability points that a starting Vampire: the Masquerade character might wreck the tone completely. The vampires may still be able to take a million extra actions and mostly ignore gunfire but those extra Ability points will really turn the tide for you.
There's also the option to not have to divide your Attribute and Ability points across the fixed categories and instead just have 13 Attribute and 22 Ability points to put wherever you want which, yeah, I like. You could also increase one or more of those totals to different effect. The book also floats the option of having a more experienced pc which is just the standard "add 30 or 40 xp during character creation" thing that you'll probably see in every WoD book. Sadly, it does not seem to occur to anyone that having multiple differently scaling currencies for character advancement leads to dumb situations where trying to build a well-rounded character with your starting points is mechanically disadvantageous.
Next, it's time for "Incentive Programs". You could apply a reward system for players who "contribute to character identity and the game, above and beyond the call of duty". Maybe give them some extra freebie points (do not ever do this, this is a terrible suggestion), like 7-10 extra freebie points (seriously no) if they do one of the following things:
-keep an in-character diary
-keep a journal of the history of the entire chronicle
-write short stories of your character's exploits
And if you fail to uphold your end of this bargain and stop writing the diary, the Storyteller should revoke the points you got and take away whatever you already bought with them. Again, don't do this. If your players want to go do extra stuff for your game, that's great, but a system like this is actually just penalizing the one person in your group who maybe doesn't have enough free time or is not a good writer. Especially don't erase stuff off your player's sheet if their life suddenly gets busy.
Now we are once again reminded not to make a Navy SEAL type. We are invited to ask ourselves what would make such a character compelling? I get that they don't want you to powergame, and think character is more important than combat but stop going on about it. Also, we're edging into weird territory here where soldiers aren't real people? Like, can a Navy SEAL not have a compelling inner life?
Next there are some rules for alternate ways to gain Edges and Virtues like maybe just buying them with xp or sacrificing Attribute, Ability, or Background dots for them. Or modifying the Virtue/Edge progression so that you actually get 5th-level Edges by the time you hit 10 in a Virtue. Or getting Virtue rewards for in-character deeds (which is attached to a weirdly overcomplicated system where now you're tracking Temporary and Permanent Virtue scores and once you get to 10 in Temporary Zeal you trade it in for +1 Permanent Zeal and if you're going to give out Virtue points based on character actions why do you need this?). There are guidelines for what kind of actions would give you points in Zeal/Mercy/Vision but they are exactly what you'd expect.
There's also a system where instead of having fixed Edges, characters can try to bust out whatever Edge they need in the moment by spending Conviction and making a Virtue roll. You'd still only be able to call on Edges you could have normally purchased based on your Virtue scores, and then you have access to the Edge for the scene.
Still, this is a very cool idea, hamstrung by suggestions like that you only be able to have one Edge at a time or that the player just sort of describe what type of Edge they want and the Storyteller chooses what to give them (To preserve the "mystery" of Edges), or that the Storyteller may choose to limit the number of Edges you can use in a session or something. I don't really know that you need to put all these extra limiters on this considering you already have to spend Conviction and roll for it. The roll is only Difficulty 6 but you're rolling your Virtue score alone so a starting character is not going to have a good dice pool for this.
Next there are rules for the price you have to pay to get 5th-level Edges. Spoiler alert: they mostly involve really fucking up your character. Firstly, you have to have 10 in a Virtue, which means that you'll have "paid your dues" with the 3 (sigh) Derangements you'll have picked up getting there. But that's only the start. There are a bunch more sacrifices you have to make:
-Your permanent Willpower is reduced by 5
-Your Nature and Demeanor both change to one of Autocrat, Fanatic, or Perfectionist
-Your other Virtues freeze and can't ever be raised (so no more new Edges, among other things)
-All your social dice pools are halved (rounded down!) when dealing with most people, although interestingly this doesn't apply with Hermits, Waywards, or Hunters with a Virtue of 7+
-You get the Patron (Messangers shouting in your brain) background at 5, and we're told that action on these messages "can lead the imbued to very extreme, virtually inexplicable acts and atrocities", although the specific, uh, atrocities are left up to you based on your existing (sigh) Derangements. Murder and Torture are suggested as options, though. So that's fun!
-Merciful Imbued now sometimes suffer from clouded perceptions that might make them thing that even the worst monsters deserve clemency, erring on the side of forgiveness too often. We're told that once per story, the Storyteller should tell you that your character "sees the potential in a truly monstrous creature and that it should be spared no matter the cost -- maybe even in fellow hunters' lives."
-Visionary Imbued, by which they mean Visionaries and Only Visionaries because I guess Hermits and Waywards already have enough problems, get to once per session get told that they know something with absolute certainty, no matter how implausible, and cannot be swayed from acting on this belief "no matter how flawed" even to the "detriment of all else".
-Zealous Imbued are prone to wild acts of violence without provocation (at least none that regular humans can see), and are prone to punishing others for superficial or nonexistent crimes. Once per story, the Storyteller points to an npc, be they monster, human, or even another hunter and tells you that they have to die, no matter what. Which feels a little redundant what with the previously mentioned inexplicable atrocities.
We're also told that none of these extreme behaviours can be counteracted with Willpower, and in fact even supernatural powers can't stop you as you effectively get the mind-shield for free. At least we're told that you have to choose to get a 5th-level edge, rather than just having it foisted on you.
And, let's remember, some of the 5th-level Edges are not even that good. I don't think any of them are so shatteringly powerful as to require all of the above nonsense, but while all that shit might be in exchange for the ability to instantly reveal to mortals all the monsters in a one-mile radius, you're just as likely to be trading it for a shitty lightning-bolt that is questionably more useful than a gun or the exciting ability to um stop creatures from teleporting to a different plane or reality (which a lot of things are not even going to be able to do in the first place).
It's a little ambiguous but I'm pretty sure that this is supposed to be the normal price for getting a 5th-level Edge. Which, wow.
This section ends with a last little reminder that you have to be careful with these rules not to "dilute the game's themes" because "if monsters aren't dangerous and terrifying anymore, Hunter loses its spirit."
Look. Absolutely nothing in this chapter makes monsters less dangerous. Bonus points are just not going to stack up against being able to spend a willpower point to take a bunch of extra actions and being much better at soaking/regenerating damage. Making it slightly easier to get to 5 Strength is not going to matter here. For all of the handwringing about not making a character who is too good at fighting, the truth is that, uh... you can't, really. Maybe zombies or whatever, but the big-deal monsters like vamps and werewolves can break the action economy so much more than you.
Still, I have to give them some points for coming up with at least a few cool optional ideas. Being more flexible with character creation points seems good, and I really like the freeform Edge idea for a variant take. Moving on!
True Faith! We have a fiction piece about a pair of Hunters travelling from Detroit to Milwaukee (I'm going to level with you, I have no idea if this is a reasonable distance or not) in order to go hunt a bloodsucker preying on a college campus. Their car runs out of gas outside Gary but they hitch a ride to the next gas station with a priest. The priest is fat. The fiction wants to make sure you get this, and will remind you almost every time the priest is mentioned. Unfortunately when they get there they hear screaming coming from the garage as a group of 'dead things' spill out of the garage and start killing people. The two hunters and the priest fall back inside the store, but one of the hunters (the narrator's buddy Howie) is mortally wounded. They drag him into the bathroom, where he dies. The priest is taking this strangely well. The narrator figures out that there's a ventilation shaft (really?) he can crawl through, but the priest won't fit (aha, that's why you've called him fat 219 times). An odd look of peace comes over the priest and he tells the hunter to go as he holds the door closed. The hunter escapes, hearing the priest die behind him.
It's actually an okay story, but it's too long and the endless references to how fat the guy who is going to heroically sacrifice himself is are just ???
Then there are like two and a half pages about how True Faith is rare and do you think anyone you know would really give up everything for faith, because people are weak and selfish and full of doubt, etc, etc, and even a religious hunter probably won't qualify.
True Faith is extremely rare, even among people who are devoutly religious. There I just saved you all two pages of human weakness, rambling anecdotes about Joan of Arc and Mother Teresa, and a truly nonsensical hypothetical about a Rabbi who loves his girlfriend only to find that becoming Imbued makes him wonder about, uh, this:
Which doesn't really seem like it has anything to do with anything, especially because the ending of this anecdote is that he realises that nothing is guaranteed, yes he still loves and uh "you have to put your faith in the hope that everything will work out for the best." without actually saying whether or not this character would have True Faith or just, um, regular type. Anyway!
We're presented with the Religious Devotion merit (1 to 3 points) as an alternative, which gives you a separate pool of 1-3 extra Willpower points when you're tested, challenged or need confidence to succeed. Probably you will pray in these moments. If you try to use these points in ways that are counter to your faith, the Storyteller should punish you by taking away the merit and possibly even some normal Willpower points or for a less serious transgression just denying access to the extra Willpower until you atone. In general, you can only call on this merit once per game session.
We're reminded again that before you write "True Faith" on your character sheet ask yourself if you're just doing it for extra powers and die rolls and then feel bad. Then there's literally another page about how maybe you shouldn't have True Faith and just be satisfied defining your Edges through a religious lens and True Faith is a huge burden and so demanding and the Storyteller can represent it how they like, but carefully.
So, what does True Faith do after spending 5 pages (not counting the fiction) talking about it? Oh, you'll have to buy another book like The Hunters Hunted or The Inquisition. "Those books cover it pretty well, so there's no reason to repeat the Trait here."
What. The. Actual. Fuck?
A few more pages about how you maybe shouldn't have True Faith and that, I'm not kidding, is end of the chapter.
Coming up: Who is excited for
Merits & Flaws!Original SA post Hunter: the Reckoning - Player's Guide
Part Four: Merits & Flaws!
Chapter 4: New Traits
That which has been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past.
So, Merits & Flaws. Most old World of Darkness games have these in the corebook and as is traditional for this sort of system they're always hilariously unbalanced and easy to abuse by taking a bunch of do-nothing flaws for extra points. I guess they ran out of room in the Hunter core, so they got offloaded to the Player's Guide instead. Let's see what they came up with.
First, we open with a fiction piece about a group of British hunters (Jeff, Jason, Serena, and Talbot- who show up in several other Hunter books). They've been tracking a Vampire who owns an art gallery for several weeks and are now making their move. Jeff has gone in as the bait to try to lure the vamp out while Jason and Serena are out in the van, worried because Talbot (iirc his name is Joshua Talbot, so it's strange to see him only referred to by last name here) has gone rogue and snuck in the back. Jeff is taken by the Vampire to see a special exhibit which is revealed to be Talbot, beaten and tied to a chair. She calls this piece Intruder Alert, because what Vampire ever passes up the opportunity to go Full Villain? Things are not looking good for our team, and Jeff is about to try to jump one of the vamp's bodyguards and probably die when Jason rams his van through the wall providing enough of a distraction for Jeff to take out the guard as Talbot picks up the chair he is tied to, sets it aflame (with Cleave) and proceeds to beat the Vampire to death with a flaming chair like an absolute hero. The hunters get the hell out of there and it's revealed that Talbot is taking more and more risks because he's got a terminal illness so he might as well spend his last days taking out vamps like a stone badass.
This story is great and I will not hear a word said against it.
Anyway, Merits and Flaws. You buy Merits with Freebie Points at character creation. Taking Flaws gives you extra Freebie Points (I really wish they'd come up with a better term than Freebie Points). You can only take at most 7 points worth of Flaws.
Our first sign of trouble comes when the book informs us that "Some but not all of these Merits and Flaws involve tangible system benefits or disadvantages" while others involve no systems but are still useful because they "establish roleplaying guides" and can really enhance the story if they're used properly.
There are some rules about how you can maybe gain or lose Merits and Flaws during your chronicle, but they're pretty vague and handwave-y.
The categories of Merits & Flaws are Social, Physical, Mental, Legal, and Economic. So already I can tell that this is gonna be fun.
Mostly these will change the difficulty of certain types of rolls by +/- 2 (usually 2). Sometimes, however, they will adjust your dice pool instead (also usually by 2). Why is it sometimes modifying the difficulty and sometimes the dice pool? Stop asking so many questions, that's why.
Seriously if anyone can figure out why, please tell me because I have absolutely no idea and the book doesn't mention it at all.
-Approachable: You are very inviting and nonthreatening. Empathy rolls are easier.
-Early Adopter: "Wow! Look at that new palmtop computer. I just gotta have one." Add dice to Technology rolls to figure out unfamiliar devices.
-Funny: The only use for being funny, it turns out, is to lower the difficulty of rolls "intended to boost morale".
-Good Listener: Lower difficulty for all "apparently friendly Social rolls that involve talking to your character" (as opposed to what???)
-Good Taste: You have, among other things, "seen the right films for discussion in cultured company, and you wouldn't know who starred in Dumb and Dumber, let alone have the first clue about the plot." Lower difficulty to impress snobs, I guess.
-Gossip: Lower difficulty for non-aggressive Interrogation rolls
-Lovestruck: Yes, love only costs 1 point but this is different than the Soulmate background we'll find in Hunter Book: Judge which seems to be better. Regain 2 Willpower instead of 1 each morning.
-Media Junkie: Lower the difficulty of Social or Research rolls involving pop culture. Someone please think of an example of such a roll that would be something you'd bother to actually roll for I am very curious.
-Natural Leader: You need Charisma 3 for this, and it just gives you +2 dice on all Leadership rolls.. For 1 point.
-Natural Politician: You need Manipulation 3, but you get +2 dice for Manipulation rolls "in social situations that involve an element of politics, such as an office meeting or gun-club gathering" (wtf?)
-Punctual: No mechanical effect. You're just always on time, barring deliberate interference.
-Smooth: -2 difficulty on all Manipulation rolls forever.
-Way With Words: +2 dice for Expression rolls that "involve words"
-Best Friend: Best Friends are better that love, we have proved it with math. A Best Friend is like taking the Ally background, but better. That's basically the only guidance we get.
-Enchanting Voice: Lower difficulty on all rolls involving the use of your voice to persuade, seduce, charm, or order. Perhaps it will not surprise you that the examples given here are written as if a woman is using the merit.
-Fashion Sense: Wait, how is this different from Good Taste? Turns out, you lower the difficulty of social rolls in situations where dressing appropriately matters "such as in a business meeting, chatting at a club or attending an invitation-only function."
-Flirt: +2 dice for social rolls when you flirt with "members of the opposite sex, or members of the same sex" so good for them there.
-Good Judge of Character: Lower difficulty on Perception rolls for "assessing a person or human-seeming monster"
-Great Liar: +2 dice for social rolls when you lie
-Laid-back Friends: You have some friends who don't care that you're never around because you hunt monsters. What do they do? Something. Perhaps if they're your Ally background they don't ask inconvenient questions.
-People Person: Lower difficulty on social rolls to make a good impression.
-Pillar of the Community: People in your area like and trust you to no mechanical effect. "You may be able to call on their aid in a pinch. You may not get it though." This is different, somehow, from the Roots Background in Hunter Book: Innocent.
-Seasoned Traveler (2 or 4 points): You're good at finding accomodation, supplies, and help wherever you go in your home country (2 points) or really just anywhere (4 points). No actual mechanics for this either.
-Socially Aware: +2 dice on "any Perception roll involving interaction between other people and/or human-seeming monsters".
-Trivia Champ: Once in a while, at the Storyteller's discretion, you know a random useful fact. Nothing occult, just common-culture stuff. Oh, but you could be dangerously wrong.
-Upright Citizen: Everyone always believes the best about you and people will have a hard time believing anything bad.
-Vibrant Neighborhood: You, uh, live in a part of the city where lots of stuff happens so people tend to ignore odd events?
-Corporate Savvy: +2 dice "to any roll involving manipulating a corporate structure or a corporate employee" which is really gonna depend on your definition of "corporate" huh?
-Media Savvy: +2 dice for Social rolls dealing with journalists or news organizations.
-Supportive Family: Your family isn't going to ask questions about your weird new hunting lifestyle.
Lucky: Once per session, the Storyteller "may" decrease the difficulty of some important roll. You can't have this and the Fool's Luck Innocence Edge, but at least if you get the Edge during play your merit dots are refunded.
-Acute Sense: Lower the difficulty of rolls involving one of your sense, yes it could be taste if you want
-Good Right/Left Hook: +2 to damage rolls when you punch.
-Hollow Leg: Halve any penalties you suffer from drinking alcohol
-Light Sleeper: Any disturbance wakes you right up. Unlike possessing the Vigilance Edge (Hunter Book: Judge) or the Endurance Trait (Hunter Book: Defender), this doesn't decrease how much sleep you need.
-Natural Runner: You count as having +1 Dex when determining Movement rates.
-Perfect Balance: Reduce the difficulty of "all balance-related rolls"
-Robust Health: Reduce the difficulty of rolls to resist illness or poisoning (including alcohol poisoning)
-Sea Legs: You don't incur penalties due to rough seas or unpredictable ship motion.
-Bundle of Energy: You only need 5 or 6 hours of sleep. You can't have both this and the Endurance Trait (Hunter Book: Defender) and if you get the Vigilance Edge (Hunter Book: Judge) you must cash this in for two freebie points.
-Cat Napper: You don't need to get all your sleep all at once. As long as you get enough sleep every 24 hour period, you can function by taking random naps. There is no mechanical effect here.
-Forgettable: Strangers have trouble remembering what you look like. You can't have an Appearance higher than 2 or 3 (so which is it?) nor a Charisma over 3. This is not the same as Hunter Book: Innocent's Everyman background.
-Good Night Vision: Lower difficulty of Perception rolls at night.
-Sexy: "You are one sexy mutha." (I'm so sorry). Lower the difficulty of Social rolls when dealing with someone who is attracted to you. Oh, but if you "direct your charms" at them it's lowered by 3 not 2.
-Daredevil: When attempting "any dangerous action" you can add 3 dice and ignore one botch. The action must be difficulty 8+ and have the potential to do 3 lethal or 6 bashing damage. The Storyteller "may" only let you use this once per session.
-Huge Size: You get an extra Bruised health level. The Storyteller "may" also award you bonuses (what type???) to push objects, break doors, or resist knockdown.
-Common Sense: When you're going to do something dumb, maybe the Storyteller is like "uh, don't?". This is not the same as the Intuition Ability.
-Concentration: You are unaffected by disturbances when you focus on a particular action.
-Good Map Reader: You... I don't know, you read maps good? "you can always find your way to where you need to be." I cannot believe you need a Merit to get the most out of reading a fucking map but here we are.
-Fast Reader: You can read faster than most people. How much faster? Does not say.
-Good Recognition: You're really good at remembering people and places.
-Healthy Skepticism: Reduce difficulties of any roll to perceive a lie. The text notes that this Merit should be roleplayed as much as possible, thus technically implying that you needn't both roleplay other Merits, which, oops?
-Religious Devotion: I'm torn between being mad that they printed the same Merit twice in this book and happy that they included it in the Merits section. No, actually, I'm mad about it.
-Time Sense: You always know what time it is.
-Code of Honor: 2 extra dice on Willpower rolls when accomplishing a major feat in accordance with your code.
-Determined: 2 dice on resisted rolls when someone is trying to persuade you or supernatural tricks when your mind-shield is off.
-Eidetic Memory: You may annoy the fuck out of your Storyteller by constantly asking them to remind you of random details that your character would know because they have this. Perfect recall, roll Perception + Alertness to remember under stressful conditions unless you have Concentration from earlier.
-Internet Savvy: "The Internet is becoming increasingly commonplace, but it is far from universal. Many users never progress beyond the basic email/simple surfing to 'sites whose address you know' stage." Having this Merit lets you, I'm not kidding, use the Internet for anything else like "using a mailing list" "researching obscure weapons" or "picking up clues about monsters online". Side note: This game has both Computer, Technology, and Research as Abilities.
-Natural Linguist: You get +3 dice to rolls involving speaking languages "other than your native tongue (presumably you use that language almost flawlessly)."
-Fast Learner: Learning a new Ability costs 1 less xp.
-Natural Aptitude: Choose an Ability. You pay for each new level of it as if it was one level lower, and the first point only costs 1xp. You also get an extra die when you roll it.
-Unflappable: "You were almost hit by a car? That was close. Your wife left you? Ah, well." +2 dice on Willpower rolls to "stay clam" and not overreact to mundane experiences. This is different from the Steel Nerves Background from Hunter: Book Judge, which works on spooky stuff.
-Direction Sense: Yes, 4 points to "rarely get lost" and be able to estimate distance and probably guess which way is north.
-Optimistic: Regain 2 Willpower each morning instead of 1. So, seriously, in this dark horror game being an optimist in love is OP as fuck
-Specialist Drivers License: You can drive a truck or a tractor or something.
-Dual Nationality: Uh, that. You may even have two passports. "This makes it easy to operate in two different places, and even hide out in another country if things get too hot". If I was feeling particularly obstructionist I would try to argue that, RAW, this allows you to be in two places at once or that you need this Merit to ever go anywhere but your house because this thing is badly worded.
-Firearms License: You can have legal guns to whatever extent that works in whatever country your game is in.
-Alimony Recipient (1-3 points): "Your marriage has failed, but at least that cheating asshole has to pay you." You get free extra points in Resources without having to work. Your rating also suggest how wealthy your ex was and/or how badly you beat them in court. You may also have the Children Flaw.
-Bargain Hound: Lower the difficulty of Resources rolls.
-Independent Income (1-5 points): This Merit exists so that when your Storyteller asks "what is it exactly that you do to have Resources 5" you can point at it and they have to shut up, because this means that you don't have to work to have Resources dots.
-Good Credit Rating: You have a good credit rating, which actually doesn't... do anything that I can see. You need Resources 3 though.
-Wealthy Partner: Your other half is rich, so you can go hunt without worrying about bills. This also forgets to have a mechanical effect.
-Flexible Job: You can have Resources without worrying about it restricting your hunting time too much
-Paid Mortgage: You own your own home. Congrats! Perhaps the most 90s Merit imaginable.
-Bad Liar: +2 difficulty on "verbal deception" rolls
-Balding: +1 difficulty on rolls involving seduction (wtf??)
-Bully: This literally has no mechanical effect. You're just an asshole.
-Children: You have children. You can't regain Willpower after a night's rest until you see your kids. Potentially crippling if you lose access to them.
-Chronically Late: You have to make a Willpower roll to be on time. If you botch then you're hours late or just don't show up.
-Chronic Pessimist: +2 difficulty on Leadership rolls
-Chronically Shy: Wait, did we just forget alphabetical order? Anyway +2 difficulty on Social rolls involving strangers
-Clannish Family: Your family will hate your friends and not help them. "Your kin don't do anyting that directly or indirectly helps anyone apart from their own."
-Collaborator: You allied with a monster to take down a different monster (or rumour says you did), and word got out so now "conservative" hunters don't trust you
-Crude: +2 difficulty on social rolls in "refined or formal" environments, you slob.
-Cultural Snob: Wait, I feel like this was a good thing like 10 pages ago. Anyway, you hate popular music, TV and movies and "you think that knowledge of TV is a sign of poor taste and incorrigible stupidity". I choose to interpret this as 'knowledge that televisions exist' and you can't stop me. +2 difficulty on Social rolls when dealing with, like, anyone probably.
-Defensive: You have trouble taking criticism or accepting responsibility for mistakes. No mechanical effect, but you're gonna annoy your table so so much.
-Eccentric Appearance: "You dye your hair pink, wear clothes that are fashionable only among fringe subcultures such as goths or punks, and otherwise appear nothing like the average citizen." Is it just me, or does the use of 'and' there mean that PINK HAIR IS MANDATORY. Anyway, you scare "mainstream people" +2 difficulty on all Social rolls.
-Gambling Addict: +2 difficulty on Resources rolls.
-Ghoulish Sense of Humor: You make jokes in uncomfortable situations, +2 difficulty to Social rolls in those moments
-Icy Demeanor: This is a weird one: Empathy rolls made toward you are at a +2 Difficulty, which given that Empathy can be used to detect when you're lying, doesn't really seem as much like a flaw?
-Ignorant: You miss common cultural references "such as knowing that the Statue of Liberty is in New York City", although you're not necessarily dumb or uneducated.
-Impractical Dresser: You dress to impress rather than be comfortable. "Unless you explicitly state that you dress appropriately for physical activity, you wear high heels, tight jeans or something else that hampers physical activity". +2 difficulty on Athletics or Dodge rolls. So, a) does this mean that if you don't take this Flaw you can wear heels or whatever without penalty? and b) this flaw is useless because you can just say you're ignoring it all the time. Free point, I guess!
-Intolerant Neighbors: People in your area will call the police at the slightest sound or disturbance.
-Misinformed: You believe in UFOs or some weird conspiracy theory. When you test a Knowledge relating to your believe, +2 difficulty and then it says "this penalty kicks in when you roll a failure" so uh you only get +2 difficulty after you've already failed???
-Mistaken Identity: You resemble some notorious figure, and it will cause problems
-Needy Friends: Your friends have a pattern of screwing up and turning to you for help. All the time. If you have Allies, you have to take care of them harder.
-No Internet Access: You don't have internet access.
-No Phone: You have no phone
-Nonconfrontational: +2 difficulty on rolls to debate or argue with someone who is normally friendly to you. Strangers are apparently no problem.
-Poor Dental Health: Your teeth are so bad that you get +2 to "any die roll that involves interacting face-to-face with others." An overly literal reading of this would definitely include combat, so those must be some truly messed-up teeth.
-Poor Online Demeanor: You were too much of an asshole on Hunter-Net and now all social rolls with any Hunter who might be familiar with your username are +2 difficulty.
-Poor Personal Hygiene: Just like above with teeth, but smell. It also uses the phrase "interacting with others" so again a too-literal reading means you smell so bad you fight worse.
-Poor Taste: You "wallow in bathroom humor, lowbrow jokes and other practices that make more refined people uncomfortable. You've seen movies like Dumb and Dumber dozens of times and don't plan on giving up on them any time soon." What is this book's thing with that movie? Also, apparently this makes you an "instant pariah" in "any reasonably cultured community" so there's some sort of weird class thing going on here that I'm not sure where to begin to unpack.
Okay, I'm just going to post a picture of the next one because oh no
ONE OF THESE THINGS IS NOT LIKE THE OTHERS. Also, that sure is a 1-point Flaw apparently.
-Socially Oblivious: +2 difficulty on Etiquette rolls
-Speech Impediment: +2 difficulty on rolls when you talk
-Stubborn: +2 difficulty on rolls when someone tries to change your mind, which also seems potentially like a good thing depending on what it could be applied to.
-Superstitious: I was not expecting the mechanical effect of this to be +2 difficulty on rolls when dealing with people who are annoyed by your superstitions, but that's what it is.
-Trusting: No mechanical effect. You're just trusting, although I think maybe they mean naive because one of the examples of things you would do is "take a stroll in a poorly patrolled city park after nightfall."
wow so uh
that's pretty fucked
-Compulsive Liar: You have to spend a Willpower point to "be honest".
-Conspicuous Consumer: You live beyond your means, +2 difficulty on Resources rolls.
-Dogged by Fringe Media: Some nut with a zine is following you around and tends to show up at the worst times.
-Foreigner: So this gives you a distinguishing accent that makes you easier to identify, and +2 difficulty on Streetwise and Etiquette checks.
-Honest to a Fault: You hate to lie, and are at +2 difficulty when you try it.
-Infamy: People in your community look down on you, +2 difficulty on social rolls involving people that know your past. Which is... how is this a worse Flaw than Shady Past?
-Lustful: The difficulty of attempts to seduce you is -2. Because having the GM roll a check to see if your character is seduced or not has never gone wrong in the history of RPGing.
-Monstrous Connection: You have a monster in your family or at your job, although they're not necessarily hostile to you (and may not know you're a hunter).
-Nosy Neighbors: Your neighbourhood is full of gossips and busybodies always prying into your comings and goings.
-Poor Judge of Character: You always seem to trust the wrong people. Awareness and Intuition rolls in social circumstances are harder. "Also, your friends and acquaintances tend to be sponges and other lowlifes." I'm going to take that to mean that this flaw will give me a talking sponge as a friend (perhaps a sea sponge) and once again, you cannot stop me.
and now there's this
why would this seem like a good idea?
-Technophobe: You are scared of technology (including ATMS, hilariously). You have to succeed at a difficulty 6 Intelligence roll to even use a computer, ATM "or similar device". Increase the difficulty of Computer/Technology rolls
-Moneygrubbing: You have to succeed at a willpower roll not to accept bribes. It's harder if you think nobody will get hurt.
-Wavering Faith: Learning about monsters has shaken your faith, add to the difficulty of Willpower tests.
-Criminal Entanglements: You owe a lot of money or a big favour to a criminal and this Flaw specifies that you've already refused or been unable to pay. Hitmen aren't coming for you quite yet, but the threat hangs over your head. For some reason it then says that the nature of your debt and the person you owe are up to the Storyteller.
-Unlucky: The reverse of Lucky- once/session, increase the difficulty of some big roll by 2. You can't have this and Lucky at the same time, nor can you have this and the Fool's Luck Edge.
-Pacifist: You utterly refuse to use violence, even if your live or the lives of others are in danger, and you work hard to prevent others from doing so. You refuse to carry or procure weapons. In certain situations a Willpower roll may be required to "resist the temptation to engage in violence when a gross offense is committed before or against you" but if you do use violence you can't regain your morning Willpower until you come to terms with your lapse or change your whole philosophy.
-Allergies: Turns out allergies increase the difficulty of everything by 1.
-Arthritic: Tasks requiring fine control are +1 difficulty.
-Color Blind: You have to make a difficulty 6 Perception roll to correctly know the colour of an object. This seems to apply to all colours.
-Distinguishing Characteristic (1-2 points): You have a scar or birthmark or something that makes you memorable and easy to pick out of a crowd. 1 point if you can hide it under your clothes, otherwise 2 points.
-Heavy Sleeper: You need to make a difficulty 6 Willpower roll to wake up quickly when there's trouble, otherwise you spend a turn waking up. If you botch, you literally just keep sleeping.
-Lazy: You have to make a difficulty 6 Willpower roll to take care of routine, non-hunt-related tasks, otherwise you just let things slide.
-Low Alcohol Tolerance: Double penalties for consuming alcohol.
-Motion Sickness: +2 difficulty to do anything when you're in a car, or on a boat or amusment part ride.
-No sense of [Smell/Taste]: Two separate Flaws, neither of which have mechanical effect.
-Nonswimmer: Apparently never learning to swim just makes Athletics rolls involving swimming +2 difficulty.
-Poor [Eyesight/Hearing] (1-3pts): Again, two separate Flaws but they're identical. Rolls involving seeing/hearing are harder. 1 point if you can just wear glasses or a hearing aid, otherwise it's 3.
-Sickly: +2 difficulty on checks to avoid catching disease.
-Vice (1-3 points): You are addicted to something. 1 point for something legal and easy to deal with like cigarettes, 2 points for something more like "alcohol or marijuana" and 3 points for something like heroin. You (sigh) have the Addiction derangement from Hunter Book: Redeemer. Yikes.
-Youthful Appearance: You look young enough to need ID to get into bars or buy alcohol or whatever.
-Disfigured: +2 difficulty to "any rolls involving social situations" and your Appearance is locked to 1.
-Insomniac: You can't sleep and are often groggy and slow, increasing the difficulty of Athletics, Awareness, or Intuition rolls. You can't have this and the Vigilance Edge or Endurance Ability.
-Low Pain Tolerance: You have an extra -1 damage penalty when you are injured.
-Obese: You are seriously overweight and add 2 to the difficulty of Dodge or Athletics rolls, plus your movement is halved.
-Old Injury: +2 Athletics difficulty
-Poor Night Vision: Seeing in the dark is harder, increasing the difficulty of any action (even social rolls????). The Discern Edge temporarily cancels this, but other perception Edges don't and you have to compensate for your bad night vision to use them.
-Short: You are under 5 feet, halving your movement and making it harder to reach stuff.
-Crippled Limb: Increase the difficulty of stuff requiring two arms OR have 1/4 movement for a crippled leg (appropriate aid brings you up to half movement).
-Elderly: You're not as resilient as the youth, so Soak rolls are difficulty 7 and damage penalties are 1 higher.
-Shaky Hands: Your hands shake in stressful situations, make any rolls involving them +2 difficulty.
-Missing Eye: Perception rolls involving sight are harder, as are die rolls involving depth perception (ranged attacks, say). Interestingly, the Discern Edge also cancels this out when active.
-Child: Specifically, you are prepubescent. You move at half the speed of adults, and your Attributes and Knowledges are capped at 3. Seems like a bit of a dicey inclusion.
-Chronic Illness: You have a debilitating illness up to even cancer. Athletics and Soak rolls are harder.
-Deafness: You automatically fail rolls involving hearing and "the difficulty of appropriate Alterness rolls is increased by three." whatever that means
-Blind: You can't see, which increases the difficulty of rolls needing your eyes by 3. Again, Discern cancels this out, allowing you to see while active. Other perception Edges just enhance your other senses. The Storyteller "may even" rule that Second Sight is still useful to you via unspecified "means other that seeing, if you know how to interpret the sensory impressions you receive." Which feels like it needs a biiit more guidance there.
-Gullible: Increase the difficulty of rolls to detect lies.
-Medicated (1 or 5 points): You need daily medication to stay in good health. 1 point if you can skip it without immediate problems, 5 points you can't, and you take 1 bashing or lethal damage (ST's choice) every 12 hours until you get your meds. Thankfully, this damage heals at 1 level every 12 hours when you're back on schedule.
-Nightmares: You need a difficulty 7 Willpower roll to sleep through the night or else you 2 to the difficulty of the first roll of the day dealing with monsters.
-No Sense of Direction: You get lost all the time. Rolls to navigate confusing environs, backtrack your own route, or hell even follow directions if they're too convoluted.
-Poor Sense of Time: You cannot guess what time it is without looking at a clock and you're always wrong about how long things have taken or will take.
-Short Temper: When you fail a roll during an Extended action, increase the difficulty of subsequent rolls by 1. Cumulatively.
-Terrible with Names: You, the player, are not allowed to write down the names of NPCs you meet in your notes unless your character could also do so. You also have problems remembering if you've been someplace before or to recognize someone's face. Make an Intelligence roll to recall any of that.
-Absent Minded: Once per session when you try to use an item you normally carry, make a Willpower roll or oops you forgot it. Otherwise, it takes about an hour of searching to figure out where you left it.
-Attention-deficit Disorder: You have to succeed on a Willpower roll (difficulty 6) to sit still and be quiet for more than 10 minutes or else you lose interest and get distracted. This seems like a terrible idea for a Flaw on several levels.
-Dyslexic: Difficulty 8 Intelligence roll to interpret a map or read anything. On a botch, you come up with the opposite of the real meaning.
-Eating Disorder: Apparently this gives you +2 difficulty on Stamina rolls and is also a pretty bad inclusion.
-Language Barrier (2-3 points): You can't speak the Language where you're operating. So do you get this flaw if you travel and then lose it again if you go home??? Anyway, 2 points if you can read the local language, otherwise 3 points.
-Overconfident: You overestimate yourself, so once per session, the Storyteller secretly increases the difficulty of a non-combat task by 2.
-Phobia: You suffer (sigh) one aspect of the Phobia Derangment from Hunter Book: Defender.
-Faint of Heart: You can't stand the sight of blood and gore, and have to make a Willpower roll to avoid 5 minutes of debilitating nausea when confronted by it. You can't have this and the Steel Nerves background at the same time.
-Incompetent: You are spectacularly bad at something without knowing it. Pick a single Ability. You believe you have 3 dots in it. Whenever you try to use it, you botch no matter what you roll.
-Low Self-Esteem: Whenever you would gain Willpower, you have to succeed at a Willpower roll to do so. Botching means you lose a point instead.
-Slow Learner: New Abilities cost 4 instead of 3.
Weak-Willed: +2 difficulty on Willpower rolls and your Willpower is capped at 8.
-Amnesia: You don't remember anything about your life pre-Imbuing, and your Storyteller makes it up instead.
-Depression: Yikes. You don't regain Willpower each morning, only when you take actions that "ardently reaffirm your goals". If you ever acquire (sigh) the Manic-Depression Derangement, you lose this Flaw and must get 4 points worth of new Flaws to replace it.
-Illiterate: You can't read. But you can still understand Hunter Code.
I'm so glad that Mental Flaws are over because wow that is a lot of bad ideas in one place.
oh fuck speaking of bad ideas
Please fucking stop suggesting I play a white supremacist. Why are there two separate instances of "hey, it's okay to play a Nazi" in this book?
-Revoked Driver's License: You... yeah, you lost your license. If caught driving, you will be arrested.
-Sunday Driver: Drive rolls "during a chase or other high-speed situation" are harder.
-Criminal Record: You have a criminal record. You can't buy firearms legally and cops will mistreat you.
-Probation: You're on probation for something and thus have to deal with your case officer constantly.
-Illegal Immigrant: If you get arrested, you will be deported, and it's very hard to get a job unless it pays under the table. This, among other things, seems pretty game-ending to me, like "oops, my guy got deported I guess I need new character"???
-Wanted by Law Enforcement: You are the prime suspect in a felony and the police are actively looking for you.
-Audit: You are being audited. Spending more that $500 dollars on illegal goods will attract attention, and money you want to use for illegal purposes must be laundered. Increase the difficulty of Resources rolls by 2.
-Demanding Career: Your job requires long hours and frequent travel, making it hard to hunt. If you lose your job, reduce your Resources by "at least one point"
-Primary Breadwinner: If you don't work, your family will starve. You must dedicate 2 Resources to providing for them, and if your rating drops below that the difficulty of all Willpower rolls is +2 because of the "deep shame and embarrassment you feel" about it.
-Uninsured: You can't afford or didn't get insurance, and must pay for all medical expenses (uhhhh) and damage incurred from accidents yourself.
-Alimony Payments: You have to hold down a job or your assets will be frozen. You can never have more that 3 Resources "because of the economic hardship of keeping up with the payments."
-Homeless: You are homeless. You can't have any Resources, have no safe place to rest when not hunting, must carry all of your stuff or risk hiding it somewhere and can't heal Lethal damage while you live on the street.
And that's Merits and Flaws. There was a lot more yikes than I was expecting, but mostly it's a bland mush of "adjust a niche difficulty by 2" or "this doesn't have a mechanical effect". The game is also has way to many traits that effect how much you sleep, and I got extremely sick of being told that something was like or conflicted with a thing in a different book that I should go buy.
There is just so much stuff in there that really should not be.
Still, I'm curious to see what kind of ridiculous combinations one might come up with. Rules-As-Written, you have 21 Freebie Points to buy Merits to which you can add up to 7 points worth of Flaws.
(Also I'm sorry this post is so fucking long)
Coming up: A little bit about Backgrounds to close out the chapter
Breaking the social systemOriginal SA post Hunter: the Reckoning - Player's Guide
Part Four (and a half): Breaking the social system
Okay so the average difficulty for stuff is 6 right?
So I'm going to spend 1 point on Good Listener, thus lowering the difficulty of social rolls that involve talking to me by 2. I will then spend another 1 point on Smooth for -2 difficulty on Manipulation rolls. Follow that up with Enchanting Voice (2 points) for -2 difficulty on rolls where I persuade, charm, seduce, or order people to do things.
At which point I'm pretty sure I've reduced the difficulty of a normal Manipulation roll I make where my character opens their mouth to zero. Well, 1, because 1s always botch. Good use of 4 points.
Now let's take Fashion Sense (2) and prepare to argue that dressing well is always helpful for a further -1 to the difficulty of Manipulation rolls where people talk to me and I'm wearing the right pants. I'll spend 2 more to grab People Person and structure all my Manipulations so that the other people feel good about me for another -2. We're now up to -9 difficulty on Manipulation rolls where: people talk to me, hear my voice, admire my outfit, and I hope to create a good impression (perhaps by leveraging my cool clothes).
So that was uhhh 8 points now let's start stacking the dice pool. Might as well throw 1 point at Natural Politician. What situation doesn't involve an element of politics? Rules-As-Written, Flirt works on everyone regardless of if I fit their preference so its in (2). Great Liar, obviously (2). Corporate Savvy (3) because who isn't employed by a corporate entity? For-profit isn't specified, so let's get ready to be annoying about the definition there. Depending on how many of those I can stack I might be getting +4 to +8 dice to all of my -9 difficulty rolls.
That was 16 of my 21 points so I might as well throw in Approachable, Good Taste, Gossip, and Way With Words (1 each) to broaden the range of social situations where I can pick up bonuses, and we'll top it off with Concentration (1) just to make it that much harder for the Storyteller to add penalties.
No Flaws. Or, if I wanted to buy a few of my social Abilities over 3 I could grab Icy Demeanor (1) to actually make it harder to catch me in a lie. Stubborn (1) also actually sort of works as a defense against Social rolls against me so that's in. Defensive (1) has no mechanical effect. Taking Compulsive Liar (2) actually seems like it would help me always be making the types of rolls I want to make anyway and since Ability dots cost 2 Freebies I'll grab Intolerant Neighbors (1) so that nobody can break into my house without triggering a call to the cops, for 6 points of Flaws. Or throw in being a smoker or some other does-nothing Flaw for the 7th point if I really wanted to.
Also obviously I took Manipulation 5 and I could have Subterfuge 5 so I think my best case scenario is probably something like rolling 18 dice at -9 difficulty.
BackgroundsOriginal SA post Hunter: the Reckoning - Player's Guide
Part Five: Backgrounds
So, Backgrounds. Those things on every old World of Darkness character sheet that every game always seems to struggle slightly to define. We get some stuff about what they are, ending with the assertion that- wait, let me quote this-
It's best to think of Backgrounds as roleplaying "stats" rather than dots on a character sheet. Unlike points in Conviction or Skills that quantify what your character can do, each Background represents a "slice" of your character's past.
If you're asking yourself what the hell the difference is between a 'roleplaying "stat"' and 'dots on a sheet', rest assured you're not the only one.
Because despite the fact that all Backgrounds give some sort of actual benefit, we're told that they're most important because they paint a picture of who your character is, who they know, what they've done, etc. Again, I don't know why this is different than anything else on a character sheet.
One difference is that Backgrounds apparently go up and down in game without "spending experience points or rolling dice" and are instead gained and lost through roleplaying, pure and simple, a deeply frustrating idea that this book will now attempt to justify, saying that the lack of rules or mechanics for gaining/losing Backgrounds in play is "not a design flaw, but rather quite a conscious decision" as if those are mutually exclusive. Backgrounds create 'real characters' instead of 'static action-movie clones'.
Close-reading this book, I can't help but be fascinated with how often this specific fear pops up, that someone playing this game will make an action hero and that will Be Bad for some reason. It reads like a very weird lack of confidence in the material and its themes- surely, if you want to encourage a certain style of play it would be better to explain why you think it's compelling? We'll come back to this idea later.
Backgrounds! They 'fall into a nebulous zone as no firm mechanic governs their development'. We're told this is good and bad- good, because player's can't increase them with xp and thus the focus is on roleplaying and personality development. Again, the fact that these traits that do have mechanic impact can only be gained through extremely vaguely described means that don't interact with the normal progression system is said to be a plus. It doesn't... really seem like one, to me, but what do I know? At least they do admit that this might be frustrating for players.
There's a sidebar with some optional rules for a way to actually buy Backgrounds. They're bad. Basically it involves spending permanent Willpower to get new Background dots, which seems like a wholly pointless layer since you can buy Willpower back with xp.
Next we get a long section talking about the corebook backgrounds explaining what they do and what sort of events might lead them to go up or down. It's mostly exactly what you'd expect- losing Allies might mean someone died, or stopped wanting to help you. Gaining Allies would indicate making new friends, and so on. It's not a terrible section, it's just not really that interesting from a reviewing perspective. It's probably handy if you're running a game and want to check in with the authorial perspective on how this is supposed to be working, but it's not very exciting.
There are a few moments of mechanical clarification, or suggestions for how Backgrounds might interact or have broader use that are helpful, but none of it is that surprising. Each section has little fiction snippets- one illustrating the Background going up, and one showing it going down. They're fine? More to the point, they're short enough not to be annoying. None of the Backgrounds from the Creed books are in here, of course. You have to buy those books to know about them.
That's this section. It's mostly just... fine, with a little bit of silliness that's not worth getting that excited about, but it's probably ultimately good that it's here.
Coming up: THE DAB! (no, seriously)
The Measure of HumanityOriginal SA post Hunter: the Reckoning - Player's Guide
Part Six: Changing Creeds
Chapter 4: The Measure of Humanity
So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruptible, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
This chapter, we are told, is going to help us get to know who our character is and how he (yes it says he) can change during the course of a chronicle, so I hope you all are ready for some pretty bad advice and more of the game's intense dread that you might try to make (gasp) a soldier.
But the first section we hit is actually pretty interesting! Changing Creeds, an idea that I don't remember ever encountering anywhere else in Hunter, is brought up here as an optional way to play the game- and while it's not necessarily something I'd always go with it's a very cool and useful inclusion here. It makes sense, depending on your interpretation of the Creeds and the extent to which they're hardcoded into a Hunter by the Messengers. But if you look at the Creeds as primarily ideological then of course, why shouldn't you be able to change yours?
Naturally, we're told that changing a Creed is a roleplaying matter and thus there will not be any hard-and-fast rules, although to be honest I'm less bothered about it here.
Changing Creeds usually involves changing your primary Virtue entirely, although it's certainly possible to make a smaller shift between different Creeds of the same Virtue. Hermits and Waywards are too extreme and/or damaged to change creeds, however, and other Hunters are also prohibited from switching to them.
It's mentioned that your Hunter could potentially change Creeds multiple times, but it's discouraged as changing your Creed is a pretty radical shift for a character so doing it too many times sort of squanders the impact of previous changes.
Switching your primary Virtue is a big change, and since your new primary Virtue is probably going to be lower than your old one, you're going to have to deal with a few things until you can rebalance them properly. If you already had your highest Virtues tied you can avoid these penalties unless you get tripped up by the requirement that your highest ranking Edge come from your Creed, in which case you're also getting hit with some penalties. This can really hurt you if you're switching Creeds within the same Virtue, as you'll have a much harder time getting your highest Edge to be from your new Creed. When you change to a new Creed you're unable to risk Conviction on Edges from your old Creed (or primary Virtue) until your new Virtue is your highest and your highest Edge is from your new Creed, which is pretty punishing.
New Zealots and Visionaries are unable to risk Conviction on their old Edges during direct confrontation with monsters, while newly Merciful Hunters can't do it when using Edges "directly against monsters, people, or other hunters" which is probably much worse but really hinges on your definition of 'against'.
People usually become Avengers for the very obvious reason: personal loss, but sheer frustration is another common reason as Hunters lose patience with theory and investigation. Avengers tend to be the most suspicious of Hunters who change creeds, mostly because they already tend to have a lot of trust issues. They're also very scornful of ex-Avengers.
Defenders, meanwhile, tend to be born out of fear- when a Hunter has a moment of 'dreadful clarity' about the dangers that the hunt brings for their friends and family. They're too hyperfocused on the people they're protecting to care about Hunters changing Creed unless they view the change as threatening their ability to protect their charge.
Hunters become Judges when they start feeling the need to take a leadership or tactical-planning role among other Hunters- maybe a bungled Hunt drives someone to feel a need to take command, or they're replacing an incompetent leader. Judges are more likely to react negatively to a Creed change if they're surprised by it.
Hunters becoming Innocents later in their careers is rare, as Innocents thrive on their optimism and idealism, traits that tend not to last long among other Hunters. When it happens, it often involves suddenly gaining "a profound sense of understanding, a sudden realisation that the other side isn't all bad" (lol innocents). An encounter with a sympathetic monster or an overly bloodthirsty Hunter can also push someone towards Innocence. Innocents tend to be supportive of other Hunters changing Creed, unless that Hunter is going in a more violent direction in which case they appoint themselves as that Hunter's conscience and try to sway them to a more tolerant outlook.
(Honestly, a lot of that sounds a lot more Redeemer-y to me, but I've never fully understood how Innocents are supposed to work or what they do besides both-sides everyone and throw themselves neck-first into vampires' mouths.)
When Hunters embrace Martyrdom it tends to be as a result of a terrible mistake on the Hunt. Unlike other Merciful Hunters, Martyrs are a lot more accepting of Hunters changing creeds in a direction that they personally dislike, although they'll still try to sway the Hunter through demonstrations of their own beliefs. This section is weirdly much shorter than the others.
Becoming a Redeemer involves a shift towards rehabilitation rather than destruction and can often be the result of burnt-out Hunters giving up on violence in disgust or despair. It can also come as a result of seeing another Redeemer's healing abilities or, obviously, an encounter with a sympathetic monster. Redeemers welcome Hunters who change Creeds in their direction but can become "relentless enemies" who do everything they can to hamstring a newly-violent Hunter's efforts, short of attacking them.
Becoming a Visionary is often a matter of frustration, Hunters who get fed up with fighting small battles that never seem to mean anything turning to try to understand the bigger picture. Visionaries rarely care either way when other Hunters change creeds, but do like to take new Visionaries under their wing. They also tend to be pretty inquisitive with Hunters who have changed Creeds as they seek to understand what makes other Creeds tick.
We also have a section on Hunter Triggers, which is something from the corebook I'd totally forgotten about. It also does not mean what you might think it means- it's when a Hunter develops some external 'trigger' to activate an Edge, often an object, gesture or 'utterance'. Hunters do this for a variety of reasons, such as attempting to dissociate themselves from their supernatural powers to retain their own humanity, or more simple motivations like comfort, ritual and routine.
Not every Hunter will have these- many are simply confident enough not to need them, but other more thoughtful Hunters sometimes look at them as impediments to be overcome.
Triggers can take a variety of forms- mementos, tools, phrases, ritual actions, each of which gets some example detail here, including a lot of advice on how to tie them to your hunter's character. Being deprived of yours might force you to pay a higher Conviction cost to activate an Edge, but doing that actually lowers the cost next time you use the Edge with its trigger, from the extra rush of confidence of knowing you don't actually need it.
I'm glossing over this pretty heavily because while there's nothing wrong with it, even the book admits that triggers aren't a big deal, and should serve more as window-dressing for character.
Anyway, this post is feeling a bit long so I'm going to end here. Next time, we'll get to the roleplaying advice stuff which is going to alternate wildly between frustrating, terrible, and hilarious.
Coming up: Okay, next time we'll get to the dab for sure.
Normal People Dab!Original SA post Hunter: the Reckoning - Player's Guide
Part Seven: Normal People Dab!
This next section is titled 'Normal People in an Abnormal Situation' so I hope you're ready to be lectured about soldiers again.
No, I'm serious, two paragraphs in and we get the book telling us that while yes, technically, a "Special Forces Commando or a Navy SEAL is also a real person with real emotions" who would probably be scared and horrorstruck by being confronted with walking corpses or whatever, we still shouldn't play one because we'd do it wrong- you know, like an action movie character. So, way to give your player base credit there, Hunter. Actually, I'm going to screenshot the rest of this paragraph because it's making me kind of angry:
so, uh, fuck off?
Apparently, we often can't, so conditioned are we by comics, "adventure novels" and Hollywood movies to see heroes as above average- even so-called everyday heroes manage to "handle situations more handily than reason would predict" which is a sentence that makes me angry on a number of levels. That's how concepts like 'University Student' become 'University Student with Fencing Training and 5 Appearance', and even "the guy peddling Raisinets is still able to react instantly when a gun goes off." That all may be fine for an action movie, the book
All of this shit would be a lot less galling if the book wasn't simultaneously insisting you play a "normal person" while also describing normal people with contempt (remember all that shit about masses and herds from earlier in the book?). Not to mention the contempt it seems to have for the players. For example:
(I'd screenshot this next bit too, but it's cut in half by a page break so instead)
so fuck me for liking horror movies and wanting my gaming to be interesting, I guess
Many players attempt to use gaming as a means of feeling powerful, as an escape from the powerlessness that we often feel in everyday life. These people rebel against portraying real emotions or desires in their characters, because showing emotion or revealing desire places your character in a vulnerable position. Others players, particularly ones whose out-of-gaming lives include a heavy interest in the supernatural or the fantastic, have difficulty trying to accurately grasp the way that someone without such interests would see the world. Indeed, imagining the view through someone else's eyes is a difficult exercise.
So, how do we create a normal person? This is a game about hunting monsters after all, so normal is actually more about 'is this a person that could actually exist before they started doing that'.
A soldier back from a peacekeeping mission is definitely a real person, but he doesn't fit the model of a "normal" person as far as Hunter is concerned. Meanwhile, there are probably fewer subsistence-level attorneys than soldiers, even in developed countries like the United States. But a round-heeled lawyer is perfectly suited to the concept of a hunter. A big-shot attorney might not be, depending on how he is played.
Normal, in Hunter, often means "ignorant and plain." The aforementioned megabucks attorney is just as clueless -- and would be as scared witless -- as any of us, but he's not plan, he's glamorous. He's not part of the society that Hunter focuses on. Conversely, the soldier is definitely blue collar, but he defies the mood of the game by possessing the kind of knowledge and training to counter the feelings of confusion, fear and, yes, even incompetence that all hunters possess to some degree. "Normal" is therefore defined in the negative, in the sense of "not extraordinary"
Like, I don't even know where to fucking begin to interrogate any of this shit.
Moving on, there's actually a sidebar that does acknowledge that soldiers are real people with emotions who aren't going to be ready to face monsters, and yes it's certainly still possible to do horror with them, but if you want to play a soldier you must resist the temptation to play them as "cold, steel-nerved warriors, rather than having them react to the monsters as they most logically would: pissing their pants and panicking." So if you want to play a soldier or a fancy lawyer, you better do your research. Hilariously, the book actually suggests phoning up a legal office or a military base to ask questions- but make sure you're clear you're researching for a role although maybe be vague about what the role is for (absolutely do not do this). Make sure to ask about the stresses and psychological framework such people would face. Do a lot of other research. Next, spend twice as long making your character as you normally would so that you can really get into the different mindset and make them real. List everything, and go into detail. Ask why each event of your soldier's life happened, and how it changed them. Even list your characters favourite type of ice cream? What the fuck are you talking about, book?.
Lastly, we are urged to check with your Storyteller before you even start character creation to make sure they're cool with your concept which is just... like, is that not something that everyone does anyway, no matter what they're concept is? Do people actually not communicate during pre-game setup at all?
Anyway, this is where we come it it. The Sentence. The line in this book that really made me want to review it because it was just so mind-boggling. It's talking about how the downside of trying to make a normal person is that it's harder to come up with ideas, and how it's a pain because:
"Not many movies out there are about clueless, scared, ordinary people fighting monsters."
When I was flipping through this book earlier this month, I stumbled on this and just. Stopped. Not many movies out there are about clueless, scared, ordinary people fighting monsters? Not many movies out there are about clueless, scared, ordinary people fighting monsters. As I'm reading this, I'm sitting almost within arms reach of a DVD copy of Alien, one of my favourite movies of all time- or, am I?
Horror movies exist, right? Did someone actually manage to get hired to write World of Darkness books without knowing about that? Did I dream them? Is this book trying to trick me? Is their conception of a 'normal, frightened person confronting monsters' so insanely narrow that it excludes Ripley? Ben from Night of the Living Dead? Laurie Strode? Is Jonathan Harker too much of an Action Hero for Hunter? Now the book is suggesting I watch something like American Beauty or Roseanne. Am I in an alternate reality, here? What is even happening?
also, wow the cite of American Beauty has not aged well here
This idea is hauntingly incorrect. Taking a very mundane character from a non-genre show for inspiration maybe isn't terrible, but the idea that it's hard to find examples that fit with the ostensible theme of "normal people vs monsters" for what they repeatedly tell us is a Horror game is honestly incomprehensible to me. Also, I just remembered that this book didn't have a suggested fiction bit in the introduction and now I'm wondering if it's possible that's because the author literally doesn't think any exists. Fucking how, though?
But rather than turn to fiction for inspiration, the book has a different idea: "Put down the remote. Walk out the door." Go to a bar or a mall or wherever and, uh, stalk people. I mean, observe them. Take notes on things, like their physical appearance, how they move, their clothing, vocal characteristics and quirks. Personally I really suggest that you not do this ever, but the Player's Guide wants you to.
Now the book is going to talk about how to take this Very Real Person But NO SOLDIERS! you've made and make them into a Hunter. Firstly, it's about doing the prelude right, which is actually fair enough given that the Imbuing is an incredibly life-changing event. Work hard on it so that you end up with a well-drawn character instead of focusing on things like their Creed- it's much more important to know that your character loves [American Sports Team], [American Beer Brand], and stir-fry. Here I thought character was established through action, but what the fuck do I know I guess?
Naturally, Edges are a problem for this book. They're not normal, after all! They might let your character, um, do something. Make sure you don't let your Edges make you feel powerful or anything that would compromise how scared and incompetent your character is. After all "if you grabbed a baseball bat and proceeded to bash in a zombie's head in a way you never knew you could, what would you do? Hit it again, and spew four-letter-words like a televised wrestler? No. You'd probably drop the bat and scream, wondering what the hell did that." Those are the two options, evidently. So make sure you make your Edges understated. Maybe take triggers to restrict them further.
Now, as promised: the section that talks about maintaining your character/maintaining your enthusiasm for your character. The book tells us that we can turn for help to roleplaying's close cousin: acting. Specifically, method acting.
(side note: it's mind-boggling to me how often I encounter RPGs that seem to think that running in a campaign is like writing a book and playing in one is like being an actor on a tv show- they're not. Like, really not. It's a terrible comparison. I will die on this hill.)
We get a brief description of method acting before the book moves on to some method acting exercises we are encouraged to try, such as 'the Leban movements'. Try running through them before a game, especially if your Storyteller helps out. Make everyone do it, so it feels less silly (it will not help). The Leban movements, apparently, are a section of eight motions that represent a cross-section of emotions. Each one is either strong or weak; sudden, sustained or traveling.
Before a game, get everyone to stand up somewhere with room to move. Get your Storyteller to call out motions by name so that you can act them out, and try to attach the appropriate emotion to them so you can feel it.
The movement are:
-The Punch: A punch. Strong and sudden. Represents anger.
-The Slash: Slash your arm through the air. Also strong and sudden. Aggression, and being out of control.
-The Flick: A quick toss of the hand, arm, leg, or head. Weak but sudden. Dismissal, surprise and resignation.
-The Dab: "Bring your hand up, keeping your wrist limp, and thrust your fingers forward with your wrist." That's not what a dab looks like, book. Weak and sudden. Nitpicking, pedantic, naggy, condescending, disgust, weak defiance (is it just me or that the whole tone of the writing in this section btw?)
-The Press: Bring hands or knee to your chest and slowly push them away. Strong and sustained. Determination/seething anger/grace under pressure.
-The Wring: Pretend your wringing out a towel or whatever. Weak and sustained. Angst, worry, fear, nervousness.
-The Glide: Walk across the room taking long steps. Strong and traveling. Arrogance, composure, elegance, control.
-The Float: "Lean back a little and take quick, tripping steps across the room, bouncing a little." Weak and traveling. Ecstasy, dreaminess, and joy (and also cartoon characters trying to be stealthy if I'm reading it right)
Seriously, this book actually suggests you get your group to stand up and do this before you game. It's amazing, and if anyone's actually done this I urgently want you to tell me what the it was like.
A couple of other exciting method-acting exercises show up, like 'Emotional Footnoting' which is apparently when you write little notes in the margins of a script as to the emotions a character would feel but oops, wait, RPGs don't have scripts so maybe come up with some random situations you think might come up and write 'em down along with the emotions they'd elicit. The idea of an in-character diary is brought up again here, and there's a sidebar reminding you to have a safe word if you're doing any of this.
Why do any of this? Because Hunter, "probably more so than any other game set in the World of Darkness", demands an understanding of your characters emotions and motivations- and that they be believable and real. Hunter requires you to be true to your characters emotions. It is mandatory. "This isn't a game in which you weigh personal risks and gains clinically". Really? Not even Judges? Visionaries? Nobody? Diaries might be time consuming, and the Leban movements might make you feel silly, but it's all worth it for that REAL EMOTION.
Counterargument: Wasting everyone's limited gaming time each week with a bunch of method-acting exercises is a terrible idea for a number of reasons, and this section's emotional focus is so incredibly narrow that's it is basically worthless for a game where a wide range of reactions to the crisis-situation of the Imbuing is fundamental to the entirety of Hunter: what about blind rage or intense curiosity, or childlike wonder in the face of the supernatural or maybe even fucking compassion? The gameline that previously suggested that you assign Creeds based on how your players roleplay their reaction to the Imbuing is now telling you that there's only one right way to do that. No nuance, no variety. Just a single prescribed set of reactions that they don't even really bother to sell you on actually being interesting to play.
And, I don't know if this is just based on my take for Hunter, but it seems to me that so much of this advice is wrong for the game as already presented. Like, Hunters are exceptional- maybe not initially, but the Imbuing is a test that it's possible to fail. None of this advice takes into account the fact that every single Hunter became a Hunter because in that moment of extreme horror and fear, they acted. The moment might have been terrifying, and the aftermath full of confusion and horror, but the simple fact remains that faced with perhaps the most horrific revelation of their life, a Hunter acts. Nothing in this book's advice reflects that. It almost seems to be hostile to the idea. If this advice works for anything, it would be Bystanders. The idea that your characters- the protagonists of the story- might be able to step up in a crisis in some way, which they would have had to do in order to become Hunters at all, is dismissed as action-movie wish fulfillment.
I'm not blind to the idea that maybe a player won't be invested in their character and just show up with a personality-less combat monster, but this chapter seems like a staggering overreaction to that hypothetical- one that refuses to engage with the idea you could find a middle ground where that person could be happy with the game and the chronicle about hunting monsters could involve actual monster-hunting.
Instead, it presents its weird, idiosyncratic, definition of a "normal person"- who it seems to hate on some level- and repeatedly sneers at the idea of playing the game even a little bit differently. It's baffling.
Hunter: the Reckoning had one of, if not the most compelling hooks I've ever encountered in an RPG: What if one day, out of nowhere, you could suddenly see the monsters that prey on humanity from the shadows. Every single thing you thought you understood about the world is shattered in an instant in the face of a Vampire trying to drag someone into an alley before your eyes as you were walking home from the bus station. What do you do?
That's the question presented by the Hunter corebook. This is the kind of advice we get on how to answer it: REAL EMOTION, helplessness, a condescending and weirdly classist view of humanity, being weirdly chill with the idea of playing nazis, and dabbing. Synchronized dabbing.
What the hell happened?
Coming up: the rest of this chapter is actually a bit better