I'm not immortal. Neither are they.

posted by Night10194 Original SA post

Hunter: The Reckoning

I'm not immortal. Neither are they.

Hunter is the only Storyteller game I have ever actually played. And even then, only for one campaign, as a player, in high school. It barely qualifies for my normal criteria for reviewing something; when I actually ran Hunter games I immediately threw Storyteller in the trash and used Cinematic Unisystem with a little add-on system for Edges. Yet I really want to cover this game just to talk about how interesting and weird it is. Its system is a pile. It has no idea what it actually wants to do with itself. It's a 1999 game mired in a hell of a lot of standard 90s conspiracy junk, with all the unfortunate implications that can bring with it.

At the same time, it has one of the strongest elevator pitches in the World of Darkness: At some point, all the bullshit the other game lines get up to is going to bite them in the ass. The people that almost every WW game dismisses as kine, mortals, weaklings, or otherwise unimportant? The people that the monsters have a thousand ancient conspiracies and magic blessings to hide them from? What happens when those people put on the glasses from They Live and suddenly a normal Vampire chronicle is invaded by extremely angry people who can recognize them and don't give a damn about the Masquerade? What happens when you look at the old World of Darkness through the perspective of the people it casually dismisses as victims and then give them magic powers?

The answer is they die, mostly, unless they get high enough level to get some of the more broken powers, but hey. The idea is sound. Especially for a horror game. Which is one of the strengths of Hunter. It's still a 90s urban fantasy game by WW, so of course you have splats and stereotypes about the splats (moments after the game tells you no-one in setting recognizes these splats or has stereotypes about them, of course). It's still monumentally insecure about itself and unable to decide what, exactly, it wants to be beyond its strong elevator pitch. It's a 90s game written by the same types of people who wrote all the other WW games, so it's got a ton of stuff in it that can easily accidentally have reallllly bad implications; Hunter is extremely rooted in 90s Conspiracy Theorists Are Right sort of thinking. Monsters control society and after being Imbued with power and sight (not very much power early on) you're above the ignorant masses of sheeple who just believe what 'they' want them to believe and who will never listen to warnings or anything. It has all the normal implications you get when a secret, depraved elite of non-humans are controlling the world behind the scenes.

So why do I want to cover it? Well, for one, you remember how I talked about how Feng Shui was tremendously confident and sure of itself? Secure in what kind of game it was? Hunter is not. WW generally wasn't. You'll get the usual exhortations that trying to play a military vet that knows how to fight isn't what the game's about, the usual 'roleplaying a character is the most important thing you could ever do and in time will produce the best characters ever written' crossed with lots of 'but only play this way' and then interspersed with art of people doing crazy side-flips while shooting a vampire with two SMGs on the same page as text telling you this game is in no way about people who do crazy side-flips while shooting a vampire with two SMGs. Hunter is confused about itself. The powers range from simple 'edges' like their name suggests to 'oh my God who gave the idiot an orbital laser'. You'll also get lots of stuff about the righteous battle of standing up against the darkness despite being an ordinary man or woman, interspersed with admonitions that the game isn't really about fighting monsters. Despite the game being about fighting monsters, and everything about your character being defined around how and why you chose to fight monsters when you had them revealed to you.

But at its heart there's the core of a really good horror concept in Hunter. Hunter is, at its heart, about a bunch of random, mostly ordinary people who can no longer look away from all the awful shit going on in their world. You might be an office worker, you might be a cop, you might be a nanny or a schoolteacher: Whoever you are, all of a sudden some kinda crazy angelic voice is screaming INHERIT THE EARTH and you can see that that guy luring someone into an alleyway is a goddamn dracula and he's about to eat somebody and nobody else can see it, so it's up to you to do something. Something you're massive unprepared for. In a situation where you might just be having a psychotic break. But then it keeps happening. And all you have on your side is that they don't know you're coming; the monsters are caught up in their games, playing their melodramas and eating people, like they do. They don't really understand that there are humans who can see them for what they are. They understand even less that the occasional human who can see them for what they are can turn a simple brick in a sock into a white hot holy flail of dracula face smashing. Better make that first swing count because it's the only one you get for free.

And after that part's passed, they're everywhere and you don't know a goddamn thing about them or why you can do what you can do. You're now on your own, with only a couple other people who did the same sorta stuff you did, and none of you have any idea what to do next. Your enemies are literal superhumans, many of them centuries old, and while you can see them you have no idea what to actually do about them. Only that you have to do something; you can't just let this shit continue. That's a strong pitch.

So yeah, Hunter has problems. Up to and including that apparently it was originally going to turn out that Hunters are modern Exalted or some shit. The rules don't work. It's mired in a ton of 90s White Wolf. Hunter: The Vigil is almost certainly a more playable game that is more certain of what it wants to do. But there's something in the way Hunter: The Reckoning starts off with a character pitched into the deep end with an earth-shattering revelation that there's something terrible out there that you have to deal with despite being unready for it that has a strong, visceral resonance. In the hands of better writers than the people at WW? The concept behind the Reckoning could be really great.

Also, the enemies you're up against? They can shit on the idea of being a soldier or whatever as being against the concept of 'everymen' all they want ('Sgt. Rex's story is stupid and boring, because he has guns and knows how to use them' is an entire sidebar) but the average PC is going to be in deep trouble against most of the game's enemies early on even if their background included combat training. It's not really going to make the difference between you being ready or unready; you're starting out the underdog. Your enemies outmatch you by an awful lot, and your enemies are, well...the World of Darkness. There's some value in playing a game that looks at the World of Darkness from an outside perspective and goes for the shotgun. The core of anger and the simple question 'Why the hell do you keep doing this considering what you're up against?' makes for surprisingly strong character concepts and is an evocative concept to build a horror RPG around.

So join me, as we go through a shitload of 90s, terrible combat rules in a game that thematically is going to need to include combat, terrible non-combat rules, terrible powers systems, and try to get past that to the simple truth within: Sometimes, it's good to shoot Dracula.

Next Time: Oh boy, in character fiction. For two chapters.

With his own belt buckle!

posted by Night10194 Original SA post

Hunter: The Reckoning

With his own belt buckle!

So, I'm not very fond of WW In Character Fiction. But then I'm not very fond of WW writing. Even then, I'll say the actual long fiction interlude that opens the book does a pretty good job of setting the tone of what a Hunter game is meant to look like. First you get a long, paranoid screed on the Hunter.Net website (because of course the Hunters have their own message board, accessed by going through a bunch of right wing libertarian paranoia sites; 90s). It begins with the tagline of the game, the words that Forums Poster Witness1 heard when the Messengers first Imbued him and we're gonna be going to proper noun town. See, crazy voices start yelling at you in an obvious homage (or rip-off) of They Live and then you see horrible monsters and now you gotta take a brick to dracula's face. He's quick to go through how no-one actually knows who the Messengers are or what they want Hunters to do. Hunters seem to have minor magical powers, though they're pretty pathetic next to what their enemies can do (again, until higher levels and a lack of thought about game balance kicks in, but even then they're wedded to an extremely squishy mortal human), but they have no idea where they get them from. Not many of them even trust the Messengers, which is honestly pretty reasonable of them and something I do like about the game's concept.

See, one of the things that comes across in the original on-line screed? The Hunters have no fucking clue what they are, how infested the world is, how long the world's been infested, or what the monsters overall want. The monsters seem interested in dominating humankind and herding it for food (Hunters mostly seem to encounter vampires and undead early on) but beyond that, who knows? It's actually really refreshing to see a look at all the convoluted and stupid mythmaking of the World of Darkness from the perspective of characters who still find it mysterious and don't know what's going on. Vampires and 'rots' (I'm not sure zombie-wight things factor heavily in any other WoD line, they seem to have been put all over for something 'easy' for Hunters to run into first) seem to be goddamn everywhere, you see ghosts, and sometimes you see something even worse like a Mage or a Werewolf. But you don't know what they are. You don't know about their struggles and silly power games. And they don't know you, either. They're pretty used to being able to mostly ignore the normal world and do their thing. That element of surprise is supposed to be your biggest edge. Hunters, according to the on-line stuff and all the fluff in Reckoning, are extremely new. Less than a year old in 1999. There are no 'elder super Hunters'. A guy or gal who has survived a few months of hunting is a grizzled veteran with tremendous powers compared to most. Nobody involved in any of this Hunting stuff has any goddamn idea where it leads; it's actually a mystery, and that leaves room for real horror.

The on-line stuff goes into how the monsters run everything. They control the cops. They have human slaves they've blessed with dark power. They run the government. They run international finance. And you know, this is oWoD so all of this is completely true; in Hunter one of the most dangerous things you're up against is the insane omnipresence of massive supernatural conspiracies in the oWoD's silly mythology. Heck, it'll even be a plot point later that pretty much as soon as they made their silly little web forum it got infiltrated and Hunters started dying. Inherit The Earth is a pretty damn tall order when you're up against people who aren't just superhuman, but they run pretty much all human affairs from the shadows and they've been doing it for ages. Which gets to one of the issues of Hunter, which is that Hunter is a game that puts your PCs up against the authors' darlings of the WoD and the supreme amount of fluffing they've gotten about how monsters rule the world and are impossibly powerful actually surpasses Chaos in Warhammer Fantasy.

Anyway, after all that, you get a brief 'this is what the game's about' that talks about how groups used to Storyteller games will have to get used to pretending their characters don't know every single rank of Camarilla society and all the bloodlines and what an Antitribu or whatever is. And that this game is a perfect entry point into the setting, because 'Maybe you hated all the other Storyteller settings; if so, this is your chance to put a shotgun in their face and pull the trigger'. Hey, I'm sold! There's also a bit on the proper nouns: There aren't that many, I promise. Imbuing is a Hunter's awakening. Hunters are Imbued people who deal with monsters and generally die trying. The Messengers are ??? and basically up to your GM. Edges are your little magic powers, which range from hilarious (Turn a spoon into a righteous weapon of power!) to silly (eat a monster's soul with a kiss!) to awesome (point at a monster. EVERYONE can see them like you do! Alternately, orbital jesus laser). Hunters also have a little code of runes that only they see, which they can leave as hints for one another. Monsters don't see Hunter runes. Hunters can communicate in a common written language that no-one else on earth seems to even perceive. Legit, that's a pretty cool power to have for a group that is steeped in tropes of revolutionary violence.

Then we get 30+ pages of fiction from the point of view of an abortion doctor turned occultist who is trying to catalogue and understand the things he's hunting, as he gets involved with other Imbued, discovers the Hunter Net, watches the Hunter Net already catch fire and explode to a combination of Internet Drama and possibly being infiltrated by draculas, and loses most of his team to a combination of them freaking out that he's an abortion doctor and some of the others dying in combat. It does feature a warrior-Hunter using the 'turn anything into a weapon against monsters' to cut a dracula in half with his own belt buckle during a car chase, though, so that redeems some of it immediately. It's also got the old White Wolf Edge in making the protagonist clearly racist and all; Dr. van Wyk refers to 'Negroes' in his Hunter.Net posts and considers the black member of their team a big, stupid, but loyal and useful warrior type. Though Jared the black bartender is also, of course, written as a big, tough, stupid and useful warrior type, with past drug convictions and a legal record who gets pinched by the cops and then murdered by monsters. Look, it's White Wolf. There's always going to be some racism. Still, the general tone of the big in-character section is actually pretty close to what the game is going for: You're meant to feel outgunned, paranoid, and constantly trying to reach out to weird strangers and form ad-hoc alliances because you all know you saw the same things even though you come from many walks of life.

I also like the touch where once it gets around that the doctor can see ghosts, ghosts start coming to him with placards asking him to help them find their rest. They don't even want to hurt him. They just want him to, like, solve their murder or something. See, one of the other big things in Hunter is the idea that a lot of the supernatural is just weird as hell. For every murderous wight that keeps hunting down college kids because they died in a hit-and-run by frat boys, you run into a sad ghost that just needs their pocket watch back. For every sinister dracula, there's an angsty dracula who doesn't really want to hurt people and might even help you against the evil ones. You can potentially talk to wizards, or even wolfies. Not like most Hunters would object to putting a bullet in weird Wyrm shit, after all; there's a lot of designated splat enemies that a prioritizing Hunter is going to want to go after first. Given how hard all this stuff is to kill, being able to deduce what is and isn't a problem that you have to fight is really important even from a tactical or strategic point of view rather than a moral one.

Then you get into even more in-character fiction; the first 60+ pages of this book are all in-character fiction and almost all of the fluff is, too. The issue with it is that you don't really get the 'multiple perspectives' effect you got in something like the Old World Bestiary. Also that a lot of the narrators are annoying. Also that, say, the entire Bestiary is written by a 'I want to be friends with the monsters and help everyone' type and that obviously colors his impressions of the creatures, and you never get a competing perspective or other viewpoints on them. This is White Wolf Unreliable Narrator So We Don't Have To Worry About Consistency in full swing. The next bit of in-character Hunter Primer stuff is all about what you'd expect: Police will never help you, trust only your fists. Mob will never help you, trust only your fists. Media will never help you, trust only your fists. And so on. Also a big screed about how religion is the greatest threat to human progress and a tool of the monsters because they fear real spirituality so they use churches to stifle it and make religion into a product MAAAAAN. It's all dripping with the usual 'Well EVERYTHING is bad and that's the truth' sort of cheap, 'above it all' apolitical cynicism; you'll get bits about how all ideologies were just as bad and all governments and creeds are infiltrated by monsters and everyone is evil or lazy sheeple.

Which, of course, leads to the issue: What the hell do you do? They've set up the enemy as completely invulnerable, in control of the entire planet, and superhumanly strong even among the weakest of them. You need to tweak things a little to make Hunting actually have a point besides 'mostly we just die'. This is going to be backed up mechanically later by a traditional WW lack of understanding of the words 'action economy'. I'll give you a sampler: A standard vamp can easily gain extra turns equal to their Dex. They have Dex 5. Basically, from what I understand of Vampire, because of simplifying them down, every vamp you encounter likely has the 'don't die' power, Celerity (extra turns), and Potence (car-throwing strength). That's the shit Hunters are up against, on simply a personal 'kill it' level. That's not even accounting for the wealth, power, and total political control most of their enemies are depicted having. I'm all for being confused and outmatched, but this is going to be some Call of Cthulhu level shit when your first serious confrontation of a campaign is like Fenlik from Horror on the Orient Express.

So you're a weird new thing that nobody's encountered before with powers no-one understands and...well, sorry, your powers aren't that much next to the guy walking through bullets and going into slow-mo matrix dives as he sighs, draws his katana from his trenchcoat, and teleports behind you. We'll get into that in more detail later.

First, let's get to the Hunter Creeds!

Next Time: Why do you Hunt?

The Hunter's Creed

posted by Night10194 Original SA post

Hunter: The Reckoning

The Hunter's Creed

So, before we have any description of how you gain points of Virtues or what Virtues are, we're going to be introduced to the character classes/splats of Hunter. Creeds are what a Hunter firmly believes about how and why they hunt. These channel their edges and determine what they can do. Also note: No Hunter can, RAW, actually gain their capstone power in a Creed. You have to have GM fiat to ever learn any of the level 5 powers. The book also admonishes you a lot for deciding you want to fulfill a gameplay role or play with a specific powerset by telling you you must choose your Creed by character concept only, and that you should finish your whole character before you decide on this central element of their personality and interaction with the game. It does this while giving you the fluff and rules for Creeds well before anything else.

They also tell you the Creeds are not an in-universe thing; Hunters have not actually been around long enough to divide themselves into splats the same way Vampires and others have. Then it goes on to give you the standard stupid 'stereotypes' each Creed has about all the others and to treat them as in-universe clubs because WW is WW and that's just how shit's gonna go down. The Virtues themselves are Zeal (Rise up and strike them down!), Mercy (Maybe the vampire has a right to eat us and it is we who are the monsters), and Vision (Ideas Guys). Something to remember about Hunter when you look at how confused it can be is that it has a lot of authors working on it. Lotta cooks in this kitchen. I recognize all the 'yours is to make a doomed heroic stand' from Geoffrey Grabowski since he was writing the same thing for Feng Shui at this time, and then you've got Stolze in here too so I'm gonna believe some of the better bits of Hunter come from him, and then a whole grab-bag of other WW contributors. That might explain a lot about how the tone shifts constantly.

Anyway, to get to the Creeds, we start with the first Zeal Creed, the Defender. Defenders are about trying to protect ordinary people and places from horrible monsters. Most will pick out a territory, or people they especially care about, or a concept they feel needs to be protected in a shitty world full of draculas. Defenders tend to be people who can't stand idly by when awful shit goes down. People whose zeal manifests in their desire to step in when someone bigger is picking on someone smaller. They're more cautious than some of the other Zeal guys because they're much more focused on protection than attacking, which can be its own problem when the enemy is everywhere and you need bold action to drag them into the sun and see them burn. They can sometimes end up withdrawing into 'their turf' and losing sight of the larger struggle. As long as the things they care about are safe, the rest of the world can go to hell.

Naturally, despite having just been told there hasn't been time for Creeds to become in-setting groups, we also get 'Apocrypha' about what debates go on within that Creed and what groups have formed within it. Because WW. They just can't contextualize writing without splats all having catty high-school opinions about one another and cliques within cliques. Defenders are apparently contextualized by being sinister big tent revivalists and 'anti-traditionalist' conspiracy theorists for some reason. Most Defenders have their first encounter with something trying to kill someone else. A chance to step in. You also get a guide as to how you should build your stats to be X splat since it would 'make sense for your character' because the book really wants to tell you how to play your PC, after telling you how important it is to make your PC however you feel you need to to get their concept across. It wants Defenders to favor Perception, Empathy, and Willpower. No mention of, you know, stats necessary to combat like Dexterity or Stamina. You'd think maybe the tough character would want some Stamina.

Innocents are the Creed for...okay, Innocents don't actually know what their dealio is. They just thought the name sounded cool and they were kinda low on Mercy Creed ideas after the obvious Redeemer. 'Innocent might as well mean idiot to other Hunters', the book says, because you see, Innocents approach the hunt with no preconceived notions and don't assume monsters are bad. Innocents are sort of meant to be idealists who ask if it's really necessary to waste a creature, but again, the Redeemer's got that handled, Innocents. The Innocent asks the other Hunters if it's okay to steal things, or punch a cop, or offers to carry the group's gun so they can decide not to shoot when the rest of the team needs cover. Innocents are kind of stupid.

I mean, it's fine to some degree. Asking yourself if what you're doing is right, trying to maintain some degree of moral self-examination? Those are fine and good traits for a character. But the Innocent then starts going 'oh what if the poor monster is in pain, that might justify all those people it slaughtered' or 'hey if we fight them we might be just as bad as them' and you can see the root of it: The Innocent is the person waffling about if it's ever okay to punch a nazi rather than being a moral beacon. It'd be fine to have them as the ones saying 'Look, we put the bomb here it's going to kill a couple dozen people, is this vamp worth that?' but that's really not how they get depicted.

Also, all their other material just makes them sound like idiots. There's a difference between an optimist and a fool. "Hey, we have invisible magic angel friends, we'll be FINE! The magic angels will help us stop hurting anyone!" is, uh...that's not gonna work. The game also suggests that Innocents are good for playing a child PC, and that's not really something I'd like in a grim game about fighting terrible monsters. I generally try to minimize violence against children in the games I run and write for personal reasons and because that usually doesn't go anywhere good anyway. Most Innocents need Empathy and Charisma, and they tend to face a monster that looks worse than it is for their first time.

Judges are the Zeal Creed for discerning monster-killers. They want to make sure they get the best possible target, and attack it to the best possible effect. They believe violence should be precise, targeting, and considered. They're the closest to the traditional Van Helsing type; figure out what it's weak to, figure out how it works, figure out why you need to kill this one, and then use those things to put it down. Judges literally have 'they are hard men and women who make hard decisions' in their writeup, but I still kind of like them because they're the closest to how you probably want to play the game if you actually want to get anywhere against most of your enemies. They're also depicted as passing judgement on other Hunters, because there's like...3, 4 different Creeds that get depicted as being really into denouncing other Hunters as no better than monsters and in need of a bullet (or in the case of Innocents, more hugs). Hunter gets real concerned with that a little more often than it should.

Judges can fall to two things: Indecision, and megalomania. Some of them get wracked with 'what if I'm making the wrong judgments' and others go 'BOW BEFORE YOUR NEO-POPE, WE SHALL CLEANSE THE WORLD OF BOTH VAMPIRES AND PROTESTANTS!', and both of those go bad places. Judges' 'Apocrypha' is weird...it's just a little bit about how many of them are Apocalyptics and many of them found their faith by becoming a Judge, finally realizing they believe in God and a divine mission to deal with monsters. They are written as needing Wits and Perception, but 'can waver on Willpower'. Their usual first encounter is with multiple monsters, usually in a situation where only one of them actually needs the Judge to do something; the first test is figuring out who to shoot and how to shoot them in the middle of some other splat's streetfight, which seems like a tall order for a rookie PC who might be by themselves in their 'prelude'.

Next Time: There already was a Jesus

God, where do I start

posted by Night10194 Original SA post

Hunter: The Reckoning

God, where do I start

So, Innocents were kind of dumb, Judges and Defenders sounded like reasonable concepts, etc. Surely the other Creeds will be mostly fine.

I didn't go into it as much with them, but every Creed starts with things written in character from a follower of that Creed. The Martyr...well, the Martyr writeup has problems. A lot of them. The Martyr starts out by talking about how many of them do the whole 'get hurt so others don't' spiel because they get off on the drama of it. Also goes into how they shouldn't do this if they literally get off on it, while talking about how most of them take up this Creed because they feel guilty about perceived sins like being queer. Yeah.

You know when I was writing up Feng Shui and I said it was surprisingly good about this kind of stuff for the period it was being published in? This is the kind of shit I was contrasting it against. Like, I get it, it's partly 'oh, you're gay in a society that hates that, so you take up being Hunter Jesus to cleanse the sin', but the way it's put in there with Martyrs 'getting off on the drama' and exhortations not to get sexual with your masochism (and placed with a bunch of other sexually charged guilt) really comes off badly.

Anyway, Martyrs are about what you expect: They get hurt or suffer damage to activate their powers, which is kind of a bad idea when you consider how squishy humans already are compared to their enemies. They are the element of Mercy that would rather suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune themselves than let others suffer. They tend to give everything they have to the Hunt, sacrificing their savings, possessions, and bodies to make certain their comrades can carry on. We also get a rather tasteless bit about how many of them crave suicide, or do this wholly because they like how others admire their selflessness. Sometimes they get so into self-sacrifice that they forget that they should probably make sure they get something in return rather than just dying for the cause, and it keeps coming back to the idea that they 'get off' on it because WW. They're defined by Stamina and Empathy. The ones who just like the praise for being self-sacrificing won't have the Empathy, the book assures you. They usually encounter something really dangerous and get the shit kicked out of them for their first encounter. No explanation on how they survive that. Martyrs kind of suck. You're generally going to see a theme of Vision and Mercy having much less coherent ideas than Zeal.

Redeemers see the world in terms of triage, and legit that's a good way to put them and the direction I'd go with their Creed. Their Creed is the only really coherent Mercy Creed, until we get to their powers. I'm not going to spoil their powers here, because holy shit they have the most WHAT THE CHRIST power in the game considering their concept. Yes, even moreso than the idiot powered orbital laser I've hinted at that is the Innocent capstone. Redeemers look at monsters and want to ask if there's anything that can be fixed in them. They say 'hey, some of these guys got grabbed off the street and bitten by vampires' or 'some of these ghosts just want me to bury their bones' and that's fairly reasonable. Especially in the context of triage and figuring out how to prioritize. I'd honestly say they're one of the only ones where the little in-character bit does them some good. And you know, if you could turn a monster or subvert your enemies, that certainly wouldn't hurt the cause.

Their apocrypha is all about how they tend to get 'god complexes' about being saviors. Also, since they can perform miracles of healing eventually, some of them stop bothering to hunt and just go around healing the wounded and crippled for money, which sounds like a pretty sane professional decision. In general the weakness of Redeemers is framed as 'abandoning the Hunt'. You'd expect it to be something like 'Sometimes you stick your neck out to try to help someone and they chop your head off', considering, but no. It's all about becoming a cult leader or faith healer, apparently. Their first encounters tend to involve badly injured humans and things that need help, which is funny, because it's impossible to actually start play with their healing abilities. Despite their healing abilities being treated as the central pillar of their character in their writeup. For some reason they're consistently treated as the medic splat instead of the faceman like you'd expect. They need high Dex and some other mental ability. For a weird reason they don't mention the Redeemer needing, say, Charisma or Empathy.

The game really wants you to know Avengers are sort of the bad jock splat. They're the guys and gals who take Zeal too far. The scary ones. The fighty ones. If they wanted you not to like them they shouldn't have made their first power 'I CAN PUT A SPOON THROUGH A WEREWOLF' (There's art! I can't find a jpeg to post of it, but fuck yeah! Grandpa slamming a spoon right through a werewolf's chest to save his elderly wife rules!). These are the Hunters who want to burn down the supernatural and tear it apart. They don't really care if the vampire has a tragic backstory; he eats people, he gets the justice foot right to the face, imbued with holy firepower. They're cast as the renegade loose cannons who are too hot to handle.

Oh yeah, and their writeup says a lot of them come from white supremacist militias as a PC concept (and other anti-government militias). So yeah! Right there, that's some of the 'ole Neo Nazi Brujah mojo right there. The good 'ole 90s edgelord jackassery. Fuck you, White Wolf. There's a lot on how so many Avengers are super racists, white supremacists, black supremacists, 'asian supremacists' as if 'asian' was itself a single nationality or group or whatever. Also they sometimes get a little extreme and bring down too much heat by blowing up a penthouse or something.

They are, of course, the 'Hunter most likely to fall to the enemy's level' by being too angry about fighting monsters. They're either big tough stupid jocks, or weak and cowardly but covered in guns and militia memorabilia, according to their stat suggestions. Also the ones that turn into cult leaders or come from crazy racist backgrounds are portrayed as highly effective killers who present a moral dilemma to the team; dare they work with Neo-nazis!?

Fuck you, White Wolf. I know I already said it, but fuck you again.

The Visionary has no idea what to do with itself besides being a more wafflely Judge. I could leave it at that, really. They 'imagine a world beyond the Hunt' and sit around being the ideas guy for their team. Like Innocents, they 'have few preconceived notions'. Vision in general is pretty irrelevant compared to how Mercy and Zeal get at the central conflict/argument among Hunters. I get the intention; there's a lot of weird shit involved in the creation of Hunters and someone who asks 'why the hell are we doing this and who gave us these abilities' is a logical character type. But you already have the Mercy guys questioning that. That's the more charitable interpretation of what Innocents do, question the necessity of the Hunt's actions and why it plays out like it does. They could have pretty easily been rolled into another Creed or just had it be a thing most Hunters think about. They are the only Creed for Vision, too; it has 2 others, but they're secret and forbidden and saved for splatbooks in case the line sells.

Their weakness is that they're conspiracy theorists and tend to get really attached to their conspiracies, losing the ability to actually do anything of use for the team because they're more interested in proving why their ridiculous theories are right rather than examining the Hunt. The other weakness is a fair number of them come to the conclusion that the response to the Hunt is not to do it. To just back off. That humans are being used as pawns by one supernatural to attack others. Giving up generally doesn't help a team much. Especially when they never seem to have any evidence for their 'theories' besides 'I sat around and thought about it a lot and wrote a manifesto'.

They have no set first encounter because they're very deep, you see. Some have high Intelligence, others aren't very smart but have the high Manipulation to play smart. They often know Science or Occult knowledge, or sometimes they know both. They are very contradictory and brilliant people you're expected to see as cool and thoughtful instead of sorta useless conspiracy theorists hanging on to a team of more grounded monster hunters and trying to a-priori their way to whatever bullshit they're spouting this week.

Since we're doing this entirely by character concept as White Wolf intended, tell me a character concept and maybe a Creed before I actually tell you anything about character creation and they're what I'll make as an example, without any regards for game mechanics or even what skills or stats are in the game.

Next Time: Making a Hunter

As real and timeless as a great hero in any literary work!

posted by Night10194 Original SA post

Hunter: The Reckoning

As real and timeless as a great hero in any literary work!

More admonitions to be very careful to make a character who is real and deep. "It's not about fighting monsters, it's about deciding if you cling to the tattered remnants of a false existence or stand up to insurmountable evil and shout ENOUGH! Next to that, fighting monsters is easy!" writes someone who has not actually examined the combat or bestiary chapters. I'm gonna have a hell of a lot to say about the combat engine in this game when we get to it because this is a game that thematically actually requires combat but boy did they make it awful. Why all of this sucks begins here, in character creation, our first actual interaction with the Storyteller system. We are also once again assured that the numbers aren't especially important and we should focus on persona generation and a logical, well rounded character instead of trying to build for stats or mechanics.

This is a goddamn lie, by the way. The numbers matter a lot! See, Storyteller has a dark secret: Storyteller is not a rules light game. Storyteller is not a narrative game. Storyteller is merely a very bad game with extremely overcomplex rules. It mistakes having lots of very poorly considered and defined rules for not being bound by rules. Carelessness is mistaken for being carefree, so to speak. As a result, you end up with massive dice pools and tons of mechanical levers pulled wildly at all times with no thought of how they actually effect probability of an action succeeding or fit into the overall themes the game is trying to get across. Storyteller, especially in Hunter, is written without an understanding that the rules are part of the fiction because we're using the rules to generate parts of the fiction. Instead, it is downright hostile to the idea of considered game design. Rules are derided as 'in the way' of trying to tell a story. For a game that thinks that, this game sure has a lot of fucking rules! Nothing about the Storyteller system is going to add anything to Hunter as a game or as a story.

Throughout this review's mechanical sections, I am going to be comparing this game to Spire, by Grant Hewitt and Christopher Taylor. This is because I think it's a useful point of comparison; not only is Spire already a system about revolutionary action against an overwhelmingly powerful foe in service to a dubious force that assists and technically empowers you, but it is an example of a rules system that actually does the things Storyteller thinks it's doing. If you want more, I would refer you to LazyAngel's excellent review in the archives, but I'll be describing the relevant rules as means of comparison as we go through. I think having an example of how to do an actual relatively rules-lite game that centers around picking concepts for your character rather than min-maxing a bunch of fiddly stats helps reveal the flaws in Storyteller more thoroughly.

Anyway, you naturally start creating your character and assigning 'dots' to stats before you even know what they do. Stats are measured from 1-5, and you have 9 stats. 3 in each 'type' of stat: Physical (Str, Dex, Stamina), Mental (Wits, Perception, Int), and Social (Manipulation, Appearance, and Charisma). How does Manipulation differ from Charisma or Wits differ from Int? Uh, they just do, okay. It's important story stuff. Stop rollplaying. (Mostly they just wanted a neat 3, 3, and 3). You get 1 Dot in every stat, then get 6 in your favored category, 4 in your secondary, and 3 in your tertiary.

So we'll be making two Hunters as we go along with these. Dr. Kimberly Muldoon will be the character Hunter wants us to make; someone built entirely to the concept of a biologist who studies occult horrors after becoming aware of their existence, without any thought to combat or game rules. Wilhelm Metzger will be the character Hunter does not want us to make, here from Yarnham to get him some juice, fresh out of the werewolves and other gribblies he intends to hack apart with a cavalry saber because he's a Bloodborne character. He will be focusing on minmaxing the shit out of his combat abilities because it's funny and someone asked for Bloodborne Hunters. Wil will also be here to show off that making a 'combat monster' is, uh, a challenge in this game.

As a base rules system, you roll a pool of d10s equal to Stat+Skill+Modifiers against a TN set at random depending on the whims of the spirits and your GM, but usually 6. Any 1s are subtracted from your pool of successes, anything that meets or exceeds the TN is a success. If you have more 1s than successes, you botch. If you get multiple successes, you do very well. It seems simple, but between situational penalties or bonuses adjusting number of dice or TN at random, and the way 1s eating successes throws off the probability, and the way the bonuses, penalties, etc are assigned by carefree magical spirits? This shit is going to get crazy.

Muldoon looks at her character concept and goes with Mental Primary, Social Secondary, and Physical Tertiary. She takes 3 dots in Intelligence, 1 in Perception, and 2 in Wits; she's very smart and well trained, but wears glasses and can get distracted by work. She takes 'Education' as a specialty for her 4 Int; this lets her reroll 10s in her dice pool if an Int test focuses around stuff she's learned by long study rather than dealing with new and novel problems. For Social, she takes 1 in Appearance, 1 in Charisma, and 2 in Manipulation; she's better at reading people and thinking things through than making a big impression. For Physical, she decides she's in pretty poor shape from spending all day in the lab, and takes 2 in Dex, 1 in Strength, and 0 in Stamina. Good with her hands, quick enough on her feet, but kind of out of shape.

Wilhelm is here to kill some shit. Wil takes Physical Primary, Social Secondary, and Mental Tertiary; Wilhelm is not a wise man, as befits someone named after a ridiculous Kaiser who used to make battleship noises during meetings of state. Wil knows this system well enough to know Dex both fits his character concept and is the God Stat for combat, so he takes 4 Dex, 1 Str, and 1 Stamina. He'll probably spend some Freebie points to be buffer. He also takes 'Martial Artist' for his specialty for Dex, reasoning he can get away with this and that the katana he can justify with it is reasonably close to a cavalry saber (there's a katana in Bloodborne anyway!). He takes 1 in appearance for the sake of absolutely-not-a-cool-vampire vanity (let it never be said he is not roleplaying too!) and then 3 in Charisma because he wants to make an impression, taking 'Making an Impression' as his Specialty. Then he takes 1 in each mental stat because he's stopped paying attention to sketch out his cool hunting costume. It might include a tricorn hat.

Next you design your Abilities. Your Skills. As before, you get Talents (Self Taught abilities), Skills (Stuff you train at), and Knowledges (Stuff you learn). You pick one category to get 11 dots, one to get 7, and one to get 4. Talents are partly denoted by not taking penalties for having 0 dots; a good stat is enough to use a Talent without training. Skills you don't have raise TNs for the dice rolled by 1. Knowledges can't be rolled without at least 1 dot. You can only buy these to 3 at this point; starting with 4s and 5s in Abilities will take Freebie Points in a bit.

Muldoon obviously takes Knowledge as her main, then Skills, then Talents. She also immediately grabs 3 in Science, Research, and Medicine. She knows a lot and she's a highly experienced medical researcher. She also grabs a 1 in Academics for all those liberal arts courses she took to de-stress while she was working on her degree, plus her personal reading on the side and 1 in Investigation; she isn't really trained for forensics and all but she took a couple courses on it and she wants a dot to have a 'knack' once the adventuring gets started. For Skills she takes 2 in Firearms; she knows a little about a pistol and has done some self-defense training. She grabs a 3 in Technology because those damn lab robots don't fix themselves or program themselves. She'll also take a 1 in Demolitions; she knows enough chemistry and science for it. And a 1 in Stealth, again representing more of a natural knack like Investigation. Similar, she grabs a point of Dodge with her first Talent point, a point of Alertness, a point of Intuition, and a point of Empathy. She's not great at any specific Talents, but she's reasonably aware of her surroundings and decent with people and thinking things through.

Wil is, again, here to kill shit. He takes an 11 in Skills, 7 in Talents, 4 in Knowledge. He grabs Melee to 3, Firearms to 3, Stealth to 3, and Security to 2 from Skills. He can get into any building and murder people in it. With guns. And saber. He buys Dodge to 3, Athletics to 3 (He's gonna do some parkour), and a point of Alertness. For Knowledge, he gets Occult 3 and Medicine 1. He's a lot simpler than Muldoon and is mostly not paying attention to the non-combat skills, but he reasons Occult will probably help in a game about fighting the occult. High Insight is fun, anyway.

Next, a character gets 5 points of Backgrounds. These are basically little advantages related to what you did before you got into killing monsters for a night job. The GM is told to veto any attempted min-maxing or trying to be Blade. Wilhelm narrows his eyes behind his high collar and tricorn hat.

Muldoon is a moderately well-off professional but has student loan debts, so she takes 1 in Resources. She has a decent apartment in a nice part of town that she shares with her 1 point Ally, a roommate who is big into the occult and who owns a nearby comic book store. She has her Mentor, a highly respected biologist who advised her during her PhD, for 2 points. And she has 1 point in Contacts from her job at DNA Industries. She's a relatively realistic middle-class person with some social grounding and a minor web of normal people who support her, but no real contact with the extraordinary.

Wil takes one look at the Destiny Background and how it provides Rerolls and goes 'Yeah, this is me, I'm totally destined for some stuff'. He takes 4 points of Destiny immediately and 1 point of Arsenal, which gets him a 'collection of outdated WWII weaponry'. He will include a Japanese officer's katana in there (He's got his saber!) and a bunch of older revolvers and a shotgun. Wil is down to clown. Wil has 0 Resources, so he is a murder-hobo, but he cares not. Note that Destiny is also one of those 'by the way, I'm the main character, and more main character than the other characters' Backgrounds. While Muldoon was off thinking about a reasonable set of social circumstances for her character, Wil was majoring in protagonism.

Next, they pick Virtues and Creed. You get 3 points, and can go 1-1-1, 2-1-0, or 3-0-0, but no Virtue can exceed your 'main' Virtue. You 'buy' powers with dots of Virtue; you keep the dots, but mark them as spent. Meaning if you ever, say, buy a Martyr and a Redeemer power with Mercy you're now locked out of ever getting to max Martyr or Redeemer powers. We have no idea what the Powers are yet, but Muldoon decides she's going to be well rounded (and isn't especially interested in the magic powers part, since none really relate directly to her concept) and takes 1-1-1 and declares she's a Visionary, she guesses, since that sounds close-ish to 'I study this'. She gets the level 1 Vision power, takes the level 1 Innocent power since it hides you from monsters and that seems useful for studying, and then takes the level 1 Judge power so she can spot monsters for study. Wil...well, Wil slams the Avenger button so hard he breaks it and grabs 3 Zeal immediately, getting the 1st and 2nd level Avenger powers.

You also get Starting Conviction, your pool of Do Hunter Things points, and boy we will go into Conviction later. Neither character touches it because neither is stupid enough to spend permanent character resources on a mana pool that won't reset to the inflated level. Wil gets 4 because Avengers AVENGE and Muldoon gets 3 because Visionaries are waffly. I should also mention how much I have to flip through the book for all this. This stuff is very badly laid out. Then they both get 3 Willpower and 21 Freebie Points. Freebie Points are spent 5 apiece to raise stats, 2 to raise skills, 1 for WP, 1 for Conviction (but it won't raise your 'standard' Conviction, unlike raising WP, 1 for a Background point).

Muldoon spends hers on immediately raising Science to 5 for 4 points, giving herself the Biology specialty. She also spends 4 raising Willpower. She wants her character to be tough-minded. She raises her Stamina because she doesn't feel like her PC really fits as a total weakling, not realizing this is a very inefficient use of a fixed-cost character resource when she could do that for EXP extremely cheaply, but hey, she's the realistic PC. She also raises Per to be more generally clever. She then buys another point of Contacts (her job opens doors) and decides to throw one in Linguistics and know German from her PhD and reading research languages.

Wil buys Dodge and Melee to 5 immediately, spending 8 points right away. Taking 'Sidestepping' specialty for Dodge and 'Blades' for Melee. Wil knows what he's here to do. He then buys 2 points of Strength because he looked ahead and noticed Stamina doesn't protect a human from much anyway, and takes 'Strong Arm' for his specialty, whatever that means. He buys his Destiny to 5 for 1 point and then dumps the rest into Willpower. Wil is now set up to be about as strong in hand to hand combat as it is possible to be in this system. We are going to see what that does when he runs into a monster later.

Finally, both pick their 'nature and demeanor'. Demeanor is what you show the world, Nature is what you really are and actually gain Willpower for doing. Muldoon takes Architect for her Nature; she wants to build a legacy of knowledge and be remebered for it. She grabs Director for her Demeanor; she seems way more interested in 'order out of chaos' stuff than she is, but that's just a manifestation of how she wants to be able to make sense of things more than any sort of control freak streak. Wil grabs Celebrant as both; he fucking loves his job and he doesn't care if people know it. He is here to bleed some monsters.

The thing to note is that Muldoon is not a useless character; if anything, she's probably more useful than Wil because what she's good at is stuff humans can actually accomplish in this system while Wil is trying to be a badass in a game system that is going to try to kick him in the dick for it. The thing is, combat is going to come up, and against weaker foes, a Muldoon will probably be glad to have a Wil around. I could have built Muldoon much worse if I'd tried, and she probably has some serious gaps and holes in her abilities, but she's at least good at her thing. Having a highly skilled doctor and scientist along in an urban fantasy horror game is usually pretty handy.

What I will note is that making these PCs took a long fucking time. This post took me almost two hours to write. That's a hell of a lot more than normal. Two hours and a shitload of flip-time. And this is without the demanded shitload of extra background material the book wants you to write for these people. They aren't kidding when they say your first session will probably be character creation. Keep this in mind when we get around to how fast these characters can die.

Next Time: Edges and Conviction


posted by Night10194 Original SA post

Hunter: The Reckoning


Okay, I am really aware this is an odd conceit for a review, but again, I have a second system right here that does everything Hunter says it does but doesn't so we're going to take a look at it and talk about some design concepts in the process. Because I just got out my book for Spire and I can make a Spire PC in 5 minutes built solely to concept and they will come out really interesting and mechanically useful, unlike Storyteller where it takes an hour or more a PC and you almost certainly have a ton of gaps you missed. Storyteller's issue lies in granularity and the number of skills and stats that you have. How do you know if Wits is going to be more useful than Intelligence for your character? You don't. Is it worth investing 5 points in Science to be an awesome scientist? Depends on if it ever comes up, and if it does, if it needs tons of successes; combat definitely will, but out of combat tests are much more nebulous. To be competent in combat against the kinds of foes they'd face, Wil had to invest pretty much his entire character into combat and physical skills. He could have used guns and not had to bother with Str as much sure, but hey. Avengers love melee.

The granularity of it all introduces a ton of variables, and it's again kind of hard to tell when you're 'good' at something. Take Wil. Wil is almost as strong at doing damage in melee and dodging as it's possible to be under the system. I've looked ahead and know this won't matter much against serious enemies. So was it a mistake to invest in combat as heavily as he did, or is it necessary to have multiple characters who are as skilled as him mobbing an enemy? Hard to say, because the system is inconsistent. Is Muldoon wasting her time having 4-3-3 in mental stats? Should she have taken a 5 Int and then a bunch of Knowledges at lower levels, or would she get fucked over by the GM deciding a bunch of them should roll Wits instead? Hard to say. She looks like she'd be useful, but is she? It's going to come down to her GM. A lot.

Let's compare this to Spire. Spire has an extremely non-granular rules system. You have a skill or you don't. Then you have general Domains of competence. If you have no Domain or Skill, you roll d10 and check against a table of 'did you succeed, did you succeed with cost, or did you fail.' 50% of the time, a character rolling d10 will succeed or succeed with cost in normal circumstances, 30% of the time they'll succeed cleanly. If you have a Skill, you roll an extra d10 and take the higher result. If you have the Domain, you roll an extra d10. If you 'doubled up' on a Skill or Domain or had very favorable circumstances, you get 'Mastery' and can get an extra d10 under specialized circumstances (Say a character got Fight twice, and they picked the specialty 'With my old Legrande Rifle from the Army', they'd roll an extra d10 with that rifle). If you're rolling 4d10 you've got great odds. If you're rolling even 2d10, you're got decent ones. Circumstances will take away dice if they're very hard. It's pretty simple. A character who has Fight or Sneak on their sheet can be reasonably confident they can Fight or Sneak. And say you don't have Sneak, but you were in the army and have the Domain of Order: You still know the military well enough to put on a stolen uniform and pretend to be a soldier even then.

Similarly, you don't have that many skills and domains in the game, and characters get similar numbers of them. Your character's class/splat/whatever instead ends up defining where you can withstand damage and pressure and what extraordinary abilities you have and where you can advance, but if you, say, have an unusual ability from your background? You're good at it. Local priest who had a rough 'durance' (a period of forced labor you had to endure for your oppressors) as an assassin? Now he's still competent at sneaking and fighting, even if his overall class as a priest will never develop sneaking and fighting skills. By having it be a binary 'are you good at thing' or 'do you know how to work in this social class/context', it's easy to tell when a character is competent or not and every skill or domain you learn is a significant boost and twist to what your character can do.

In that same vein let's ask how much Muldoon having a 5 in Science is going to help her. Who knows? Maybe 7 Science Dice would've been enough for anything Science ever does. It fits her character concept of being a brilliant scientist, but the granularity of the system doesn't add much when the system keeps telling us it wants us to focus on concept and get out of our way. It's more EXP efficient, since she bought it with fixed cost resources and you get diminishing returns on EXP spends, but who knows how useful it is and what sort of competence it reflects? Under the system in Spire, though, if Muldoon was a class/background that had the Technology Domain and the Investigate skill, you could reasonably guess she'd be extremely good at scientific investigation and manipulation of technology.

Similarly, there's a very long skill and stat list in Storyteller; what's Wits vs. Int? When do you use Manipulation or Charisma or Appearance? Is Etiquette going to come up? Do you need Alertness or was Awareness more important? Is this a Technology or a Science roll? How many points does it take to actually be competent in a thing going by game mechanics instead of the general rule of thumb fluff about 1 is beginner, 2 is average, 3 is good, 4 is great, 5 is human peak? There's so much variation in the rules when we get to them that I can't really tell you besides 'ask your GM'. In Spire, there are 9 Skills and 9 Domains. You will know (if your character is very broad instead of having Mastery) 5-7 of them at game start, out of 18. If you only know 5, trust me, the stuff you get in return will be worth it since it's extra insurance against terrible things happening. There's a good baseline of competence you can assume, and your PC will be widely able in a variety of potentially surprising ways, all of which are geared towards being good at doing revolutionary action and doing the things the game is about.

In Storyteller, say I made Muldoon's roommate, the comic book shop nerd. Making that character wholly to flavor could end up with a PC who isn't actually good at, you know, hunting monsters and solving mysteries. Because Hunter's rules system isn't focused and doesn't do a good job of defining competence. This complexity actually does result in the rules getting in your way. Because you're playing a guessing game of whether or not the stuff you're putting points into is going to come up during the game. In a system like Spire, the character creation is drilled down to 'everything here is going to help you, and at the end of creation your PC is going to be useful to a revolutionary cell trying to overthrow their oppressors because that's what the game is about, so design whatever looks cool'. By actually drilling down the complexity of the game and making it much more focused, Spire lets you do the thing Storyteller is telling you to do and do it with confidence that your PC is going to be cool, potentially unique, and actually good at playing the game. Contradictions and complications actually become sources of unusual strengths instead of wasted points on 'dips'. A badass knight who did a term as a high society asshole's personal assistant and learned all about upper class etiquette? Helpful! An artist who came back from the war to try to express what she saw in paint and performance? Actually useful! A revolutionary who did a term as a diplomat with other nations? Great!

Meanwhile, over here in Storyteller, you're playing a guessing game as to how much of which Fight Guy skill is going to make you able to survive and contribute if you get into a gunfight, and which stat is going to do what thing at what time because it's extremely variable and decided by your GM at random. What is going to come up in the game is plain: You're going to fight monsters. But what makes you decent at that? When have you put enough points in a thing? You don't know. The system is at once very complex, but very poorly defined, so you're in a guessing game about building your PC. Not to mention it takes an hour to do it and they can die in one or two bullets in a fight. This actually seriously impedes building a reasonable and realistic PC to concept, because there are simply too many numbers and rules in your way. The simpler, lighter system that actually thought about design and focused the game mechanics around the thing the game is about actually does free you up to build to concept and flavor, while the loose Storyteller system makes it much harder and brings the numbers much more firmly into focus even as it protests it doesn't want to be about the numbers. Most of my time spent making Wil and Muldoon was spent on numbers. Most of my time making Spire PCs is spent on character. Design matters! The granularity of Storyteller only works against its stated design goals because it pays no mind to actual design and mechanical work!

Next Time: Okay, NOW it's Conviction and shit.

How Not To Do Cool Stuff Points

posted by Night10194 Original SA post

Hunter: The Reckoning

How Not To Do Cool Stuff Points

Conviction is meant to be a major power stat for the Hunter the same way Blood is to a Vampire and Being Mad About Stuff is to woofs. This is your certainty, your willingness to trust in your new abilities, and your drive to punch dracula right in his smug dracula face. Conviction is supposed to be a powerful edge in the battle against night creatures, used to fuel a Hunter's amazing abilities. Conviction is mostly a huge pain in the butt. Remember: You could have bought extra Conviction at PC creation, and you have 3-4 Starting Conviction to form your 'normal' pool. Note that while spending points on Willpower (your other metacurrency, really) raises your characteristic WP rating, raising Conviction does not; this is why it does not seem like a good idea to spend permanent character points on your temporary mana pool. If your Conviction has been drained, you'll sometimes get refilled to your Creed's default of 3 or 4, at the arbitrary wish of the GM; it could be next session, it could be next scene. We're going to be seeing our friend 'arbitrary wish of the GM' an awful lot throughout Hunter.

You absolutely need Conviction. It is the most important tool a Hunter has. Spending a point of Conviction on a scene will grant you the immediate ability to perceive the supernatural for that scene, even if you don't have any Edges that normally let you do that. You'll see ghosts, you'll see a vamp is a vamp, you'll see the hidden zombies and awful things of the world, and you won't freak the fuck out from doing it. You do not need to make 'fear' tests or whatever if you've got Conviction on. You become immune to mind-whammies and other powers of compulsion. Whatever tricks a monster is used to using to evade notice, none of them work if you've spent a Conviction point for the scene. You will completely no-sell illusion powers, domination powers, possession powers, etc. You see everything for what it really is, and you remember it; no Hysteria-ing your way outta this one, woofs! (Instead they probably just kill you, because it is a woof, and they are big and angry and stupid and very good at killing) The issue is that you can't afford to do this every scene, and if you don't have your shield of Conviction up, you will be effected just like a normal human. This is why there are so many Edges that let you see or mark the supernatural despite having an automatically successful option with Conviction; you need to know when there's something strange in the neighborhood so you don't constantly waste your pool of ain't afraid of no ghosts.

Naturally, after all this about one of the few genuinely awesome, thematic powers Hunters have (the whole second sight/no-sell domination ability) we get a sidebar about how maaaaybe it shouldn't actually work on a really old and especially cool vampire. The GM is, at the Arbitrary Whim of the GM, free to make you roll a Primary Virtue check against TN 6 or 8, which they can do for you, in secret. If this fails, you fail to detect the creature and are completely vulnerable to its bullshit, even though you spent a Conviction point and were assured by the rest of the game that doing that is a 'Fuck You' button for mind-whammies and illusions. This is bad! BAD BAD BAD BAD BAD! Do not do this shit, White Wolf! You gave the Hunters one really cool move that really stands out and then immediately qualified it in the most dickish way possible, the 'GM rolls under the table and then lies to you about you being protected while you waste resources' move. These poor bastards have a hard enough row to hoe already, don't take away the one genuinely awesome thing they can all do!

Also note Conviction sight won't reveal other Hunters unless they use their Edges. Hunters are still human, weird as they can be. Whatever they are, they don't show up on your spook radar.

If you run into a situation where you don't have any Edges that can detect the supernatural but you have no reason to suspect danger, the GM can let you make an Int/Wits+Primary Virtue roll, TN 6. If you succeed, you realize there's some bad shit trying to mind-whammy you and get the chance to spend Conviction in time to deflect it. If not, you probably get mind-whammied while your guard was down. Similarly, if a woof goes full woof and only some of the party realized they needed to spend Conviction right the fuck now, only those people get the chance, while all the others go running and screaming from the woof's presence. Which is honestly not a bad idea when you're confronted by one of those things unless you were damned ready for it and convinced you'll win Initiative anyway.

So far, this sounds a little annoying but at least it powers a cool ability, right? Outside of the 'actually maybe COOL vampires should be able to slam on through' and all, which is the kind of stuff that should get a designer or GM slapped with a rolled up newspaper like a naughty puppy. You can also slam Conviction points into die rolls that involve a Hunter Edge. Doing this does not immediately lose you the points; in fact, if you succeed, you get the whole pool of what you 'risked' back AND an extra point! Score! This is one of the reasons Wil's a melee character: He can slam his Conviction into melee attacks with his Avenger ability and potentially really make that first swing a good one. If you fail, you lose all the Conviction you risked. Also note if you risked Conviction on, say, a roll to see if there's supernatural shit around with a Judge power and there turned out to be none? You auto-fail and lose the pool. So good luck with that. Stick to situations with a clear success or failure. You can also only do this once a scene, and the astute among you might notice that you probably also spent a Conviction on that scene to be able to handle facing the supernatural to begin with, so, uh, good luck gaining Conviction by Risking.

The GM, of course, has the option to award more points on a Risk rather than just one if they think it was important. The GM is a very powerful beast in shittily designed rules systems.

Oh, and if you crit-fail a role you put Conviction in you immediately lose your entire pool. You're probably going to die, but the game is adamant that this is instead the perfect chance to roleplay your despondency and that you must show the crushing agony of failure.

'Risking Conviction in every scene is a cheap way to try to power-up your character', they say. The GM, of course, may decide that any attempt to use Conviction that they don't like fails automatically, or may simply deny you the chance to Risk Conviction if they suspect you of level-grinding. It is meant to be used in desperate situations only. Naturally. Using Edges in cool ways or doing cool things will get you Conviction at GM option, because again, the GM decides everything in this game. Playing your Creed hard can get you conviction; Wilhelm reveling in cutting down several shitty zombies in one scene and being coated in their blood like a proper Yarhnamite might get him one, while Muldoon having a long scene of introspection about the source of her powers or the nature of Wyrm mutations might get her one. GM's option, as always. You ALSO get a point if you convince a Hunter of another Creed to do things your way; if Wil gets Muldoon to pick up a shotgun and blow a woof's head off with silver buckshot and then admit that was pretty cool, he gets a point. If Muldoon gets Wil to slow down and think about things for one goddamn minute in his goddamn insane murderhobo life, she gets a point. However, the other person can, at GM's option, lose a point for not playing their own Creed to the hilt because this game is badly made. You try to step out of your splat box and the GM has permission to slap you for 'one or more Conviction'.

And now the worst part: If you get Conviction to 10, you can spend the entire pool to add +1 to a Virtue. Yep! It's an EXP bar! Your Cool Stuff gauge/Mana Gauge (Many Edges will require spending points to activate them at high levels) is ALSO your primary EXP bar for your superpowers. You can stay at 10 so you can use Conviction on rolls and stuff, but if you do, any Conviction gains go in the trash. You should probably level up now. Also, of course, you should be heavily guided in what you can spend it on by the GM. If you got point 10 fighting, you should put it in Zeal, unless that would raise Zeal over your main stat, in which case you can't, because again: What you can do should be guided by the GM at all times. This game goddamn loves the GM doing whatever they wish. Thankfully, you dump down to your Starting Conviction, not 0, so you'll still have enough points for mind-whammy defenses. You get to buy new powers and stuff immediately and your Virtue raises immediately, at least.

Oh, by the way, if your Virtue ever gets over 7? You gain Derangements, which are insanity effects, for every point over 7 any Virtue gains. You become 'inhuman' because you have too much Hunter Power and you become more and more of a supernatural creature because this game loves to shoot its own pitch/theme in the foot. Also guess who assigns the Insanities and chooses them? It's the GM! The GM gets to decide what happens to your character's mind as you become the huntiest Hunter. Hunters who get to this point either retire to save their sanity or become alien to normal humans and 'lesser' Hunters, because this is a WW game and they love that shit. Virtues also max at 10, and the astute may notice that since you buy a 1 dot, 2 dot, 3 dot, and 4 dot edge on the way up, that adds up to 10. You cannot get 5 dot Edges in normal gameplay; the GM awards them if they feel like it. Your Derangements can't be removed, only alleviated by 'roleplay' and spending Willpower, your other metacurrency. Thanks, WW, I hate it.

Conviction is basically a textbook example of how not to do a metacurrency and/or power bar in a game. It's arbitrary, up to GM fiat, extremely important to advancing your character, completely necessary to the game, and has that awful feeling of having to spend EXP to activate useful or essential abilities. And your GM can just decide to negate the most important and essential use of it. While you still spend it. Oh, and you get more by convincing other players to go off mission, but they also potentially lose it for agreeing and doing the same. Holy god, this is a badly done subsystem.

Also, just to get them out of the way so I can get to the Edges: Humans have 8 Health Boxes, going from Bruised to Dead. As you suffer Bashing damage (which humans can actually soak by rolling Stamina vs. TN 6 to reduce incoming damage) you half-check these boxes. Any box with even a half-check also causes you the attendant penalties. Yeah, we got Wound Penalties here! You suffer -1 at 2 Wounds, -2 at 4, -5 at 6, and at 7 you're down, at 8 you're dead. If you fill up everything with half-check bashing damage, you suffer Lethal on any further Bashing hits. Lethal damage can't be soaked by humans (armor can soak some of it) and comes from pointy claws, teeth, katanas and guns. These mark off wound-boxes with a double-check right away and will kill you as soon as you take 8. You are extremely fragile; a rifle does 8 potential damage, for instance.

You generally get 1-4 EXP at the end of a session, based on 'if you learned a lesson the GM wanted you to', if you were heroic, if you succeeded at stuff, and if you came to the session. You also get more at the end of a story arc. It costs 3 points to buy a new skill at 1, 2xcurrent level to raise a skill, 4xcurrent level to raise a stat, and 1xcurrent level to raise WP. This is why Muldoon was kind of foolish to raise Stamina with Freebies; she should've just spent 4 EXP on it. Meanwhile, Wil raising his Str got him 20 EXP worth for 10 Freebie Points; a way better deal. It's more efficient to have higher stats/skills early.

Willpower is both a trait (You roll based on your 'characteristic' Willpower even if you've spent some) and a currency. You can always spend 1 WP to get a marginal success on any purely mundane roll; nothing with Edges can do this. It can also be spent to ignore Wound Penalties for a turn, or to avoid a Derangement manifesting. At GM's whim, enough effort in denying a Derangement will eliminate it; no guidelines are given on this, of course. It's their call. Everything is.

Next Time: This Game Is Not About Superheroes, Maaaaaan

Mercy: Laser cannon, death fog, and soul eating

posted by Night10194 Original SA post

Hunter: The Reckoning

Mercy: Laser cannon, death fog, and soul eating

So, Edges. These are supposed to be the little things you can do that even the odds with monsters. They, uh, kind of don't. Unless they do. A lot. Their balance is all over the place, and outside of the Zeal Creeds, their theming can be, too. Some of them are pretty cool in concept, some are extremely powerful in gameplay, and several of them are as all hell. Also nobody really gets the level 5s, so don't judge anything by them, and when I describe a level 4, remember that's a power wielded by a max level Hunter in that Virtue who took 3 insanities to be able to use it. Ask yourself if they sound worth it.

We start out with the Innocent. Their first power is legitimately very useful: They're supernaturally good at hiding. Ostensibly this is so they can observe a monster when it isn't under threat or pressure and determine what it's like without preconceived notions. Realistically? Extremely useful for hiding and then sussing out their pattern so your buddies can stealth kill them later. Wits+Mercy, TN 6, vs. Alertness+Per, TN 6. If you win, the monster can't see you unless you touch it, yell at it, or something like that. So you can just stand in the corner of a vamp's lair, watching him go over all his plans, unseen. Very good start, Innocents. However, if a normal human enters the scene (like his Ghoul stockbroker) they'll see you immediately unless you were also mundanely hiding.

Their second is Illuminate, which is the most useless of all the 'mark a monster' powers. Per+Mercy, TN 6, basically duplicates Second Sight without spending Conviction...and instantly makes you glow with magic to the monster you revealed and tells them it's you doing that. Also immediately turns off Hide. So, uh. Good luck and start running, you dumbass.

Radiate is broken as hell and doesn't really work for what it's intended for (protect the Innocent!) and instead serves as a group buff so your buddies can gather around you and shotgun a rotting fucker to death in relative safety. When you trigger Radiate, you roll Stamina+Mercy (and remember, you have at least 6 Mercy to have this power), TN 6. For every success you get, you and 1 ally per success (if they stood within Mercy yards of you) gets a holy shield of light that makes attacks against you more difficult. It raises the Difficulty of attacking you by a number equal to your Successes. So if you get 4 or more, you can cover your whole 5 man team or whatever, and make all attacks against you Difficulty 10 (or more, but as 10s always count as a success, it's irrelevant), at which point every die is as likely to get eaten by a 1 as score a success. Good fucking luck, monsters! You can't touch Baby Jesus and their shotgun buddies! You may notice Innocents are very good at helping their friends murder people. This is pretty much the opposite of their intended theme, but it's just how things shake out.

Confront lets the Innocent confront a monster and appear to be whatever the monster most values. Spend 1 Conviction, roll Manipulation+Mercy TN 5. For every success, attacking you takes a mojo point away from the monster (They use Willpower for all Monster power sources in this; blood, rage, whatever wizards use). You have to keep looking them in the eye for this to work. They can still kill you, it just costs them a ton for every action and they'll probably pick a different target. Combine with Radiate for maximum fuckery. Useful, but not nearly as good as Radiate.

Finally the holy innocent gets the Orbital Laser Cannon: Burn is an insanely powerful 5 dot attack spell. Spend 2 Conviction and roll Str+Mercy, TN 8. For every success, you inflict X lethal damage on every Supernatural within 5xSuccesses yards of a light source. If you can pull this off using the sun, they take 10 damage of Lethal. Even a flashlight does 5. And this hits a wide area. It also hits everything. And they can't dodge. Once again, well...Innocent has no idea what its theme is in its fluff, let alone its powers, but the idea of the naive dumbass on your team accidentally being tricked into being your team's murder-machine shield generator/spy and then calling down an orbital strike is hilarious to me.

Martyrs suck. They really do. You barely have enough HP to handle getting punched solidly; you really don't have design space for a 'take damage to do stuff' class in Hunter. But here they are, looking sad and mopey, having terrible fluff, getting fucked up.

Demand is their first power and it sets the tone. You suffer 1 Bashing Damage to immediately add your Mercy score to your Strength for a single turn. Not a single action, mind you, a single turn; that can be an important distinction as you can take multiple actions a turn at a penalty. You also suffer the damage before any tests, in case it causes wound penalties, because lol Martyrs are sad, sad people.

Witness lets them see more about a monster than Second Sight reveals; they can tell a little more about exactly how awful something is. They get 10 minutes of better-Second-Sight (but no protection) per Success on Per+Mercy TN 6, and can spend Conviction to make it last longer but given it doesn't protect them and Conviction would last all scene and also protect them this is a stupid move. They also get little visions of past contact between monsters and humans in the area, useful for determining if this is where something likes to take its victims or meet its minions. Not much to do with Martyrdom but eh, it's okay.

Ravage is the Martyr's signature death-fog move where they tear themselves up and then make awful death fog come out, horrifying and stunning humans and hurting monsters. Manipulation+Mercy, TN 7. Humans are stunned one turn per success, monsters take 1 Lethal per success (lol, that's all?) and you take 1 bashing damage you can't soak. A gun is usually better. This works on incorporeal enemies, but so does an Avenger. We'll get to that later. Seriously, this is their big, signature power. And that's it.

Donate lets a Martyr give of themselves to an ally, literally giving them stat points. Spend 2 Conviction, roll Mercy+Stat you want to give, TN 7. For every success, you can give away a stat point. If you give your entire stat, you pass out. Depending on successes, this can last for up to 3 days, and you can't cancel it willingly if you pass out. You can donate any stat except Appearance; no making yourself ugly to make your buddy superhumanly sexy, damnit! We draw a line there! For some reason! If you gave them a Mental stat you get a telepathic link, if you gave them a Social stat you feel each other's emotions. There is no limit on how high you can make an ally's stats with this. However, IF THEY DIE while your stats are in them, you lose them FOREVER. So, I can see the use, but uh...better hope your buddy doesn't eat a bullet.

Payback is the only genuinely cool power Martyrs get and is very GM-may-I despite that. You make a monster suffer a human vulnerability for awhile. Something they've lost. You spend 5 Conviction and roll Manipulation+Mercy vs TN Enemy Stamina+4 (so, uh, good luck). If you get at least one success, you can make a vampire, say, bleed out and die of wounds like a normal human. Or turn a ghost physical. Or turn off a Mage's magic. You can also turn off powers, it doesn't mention that until the rules text. If the monster gets away, it escapes your influence. So...who knows what this will do rules-wise, but conceptually it's kind of neat as a capstone for the Martyr to impose human frailty on a horrible monster.

Redeemers...well, they start strong. Then they go weirder than any other class in the game. This is partly a function of kinnnnd of having everything they need to do their Thing by rank 2. Their level 1 power is just an Active Defense they can use Conviction on that uses Mercy+Wits TN 6; they yell STOP! or NO! and a monster has to hesitate and stop its attack. Note this works on humans, too. You can turn aside a car by yelling at it. Bluster is a decent 'WAIT! GIVE ME A SECOND!' move and pretty useful; you can also use it to stop someone attacking someone else.

Insinuate is thematically awesome, mechanically wonky. Insinuate lets you ask a monster an honest question and force them to deal with it honestly, because you treated them like a human. You can make a vampire remember what it was like, fully, to be human again. You can make a woof remember what it's like not to be mad. This manifests in a Mercy+Manipulation TN 6 roll. Every Success makes the creature's next move get +1 Difficulty, but also makes it remember FEELINGS, powerful FEELINGS that might at GM's discretion make it stop attacking or talk to you. Ask your GM if you can do your job or just give a one-time debuff once per scene! Redeemer!

Respire is the weirdest fucking power. So, as a Redeemer, you can heal people with a kiss. You can also, uh, eat monsters' souls with a kiss. Just suck it right outta the jerk like you were Lady and the Tramp and it was spaghetti. Yeah. That's...uh a Redeemer thing. Eating monster souls. To heal someone, roll Mercy+Stamina, TN 6. For every success, you may either make everything you do this whole scene +1 Difficulty OR spend 1 Conviction, each of these you spend (and you can mix or match) instantly heals 1 level of damage, Bashing OR Lethal. You can do this to Hunters, humans, and monsters. You can only eat monsters, though. Roll Dex+Mercy instead and you just start suckin' the juice out of a monster within Mercy yards, TN 6. They resist with Stamina, TN 6. For every 2 successes you get, you gain 1 Conviction from taking their soul, up to your Starting Conviction. For every success you get, they take 1 Lethal damage. No word on if they can Soak this, since it's treated as straight levels of damage and not Damage Dice and they already resisted with Stamina. You can suck out more HP than you hold Conviction if you're just trying to kill them. I have no idea what this has to do with being the person who reforms monsters. This is weird as hell and the most out of place power in the entire game. Yes, even more than Baby Jesus Laser Cannon, they at least had a 'light' theme going. The GM can also choose to make your soul-suck harder if they think you're going to end-run their Methuselah with a little impromptu and unplanned diablerie, too. Because the GM rules.

Becalm is back to sanity. You make it hard for everyone around you to take rash actions so everyone can shut up and talk this shit out for a minute. And stop panicking about the way you ate that ghost. Manipulation+Mercy, spend 1 Conviction, and now everyone has to make TN 8 stat checks to actually try violent actions for 1 minute per Success, in a range of 5 Yards per success. Simple, effective, does the thing the Redeemer is meant to do. Maybe they're done being weird-

Nope their level 5 is Suspend and makes them make people unable to teleport or jump into the Woof Dimension for awhile. That's all it does, traps people in the physical plane with you with 2 Conviction and Charisma+Mercy TN 8. Any successes stop people from teleporting into your scene, or jumping out of it. You force them to stay in the world and take a goddamn pamphlet and a goddamn lecture, I guess? I guess that's the point, to stop woofs from fleeing your attempts to convert them? A supernatural 'Lock The Doors, Make Them Listen to The Pitch!' is a weird-ass capstone for the weird-ass Redeemer.

So yeah! Mercy: Confused as fuck about how to be superpowers. I should also point out this whole section starts with the game pleading with you not to play superheroes, and telling you no PC will simply dive into action when they are first Imbued. Despite the game, again, telling you the entire framing device is diving into action at your Imbuing and if you don't you're a failure who doesn't get powers. White Wolf, folks!

Next Time: Vision and Zeal

I waste it with my crowbar

posted by Night10194 Original SA post

Hunter: The Reckoning

I waste it with my crowbar

So, Vision. Vision only has one Creed and one Power Set. I know they add more later and they're all edgy and stuff, but the Visionary is the only one in the core. They kinda suck conceptually (I get really sick of being reminded every time they come up that they are the Best Creed of Smart Creative Hunters who are the only hope to Actually Win because they have no preconceptions and are just so gosh darn creative and wise) but their powers are sort of neat.

Day 1, they actually get a pretty neat implementation of precognition. Forsee is a good example of 'Yes you can do your signature thing right off the bat'. Intelligence+Vision, TN 7. Every success grants you one reroll (one reroll attempt possible per action) OR one additional action you attempt during this sequence, as you feel out what the end result of several possible actions could be before committing. So, say Muldoon is in a bad situation where an ally is wounded and unconscious and an angry zombie is bearing down. She uses Foresee and gets 4 successes. She can now shoot at the zombie twice to see if she can kill it in one shot, then turn around and consider if she could use Medicine to get her buddy up and run, or check if she could, by die roll, barricade the door to give herself more time. She rolls all these things out, then picks the die result and outcome she wants for the round as she commits to one future. That's actually a cool power and a pretty strong start thematically. You can only use it once an entire session, though, which puts a big 'ole wet blanket on it.

Pinpoint is another simple, to the point, useful power. Roll Per+Vision, TN 6. Get one success? You now know with certainty one of a creature's critical weaknesses; this'll tell your Hunter to use silver on woofs, or that yes, a stake to the heart WILL work on a vamp. 3 Successes or more, and you can pinpoint the creature's main lair or some other very important place for it. Throw this baby on a character with the Innocent's Hide power (like Muldoon with a few levels!) and you've got a good spy. Using the information might be tough, but this is exactly the kind of stuff you want from a Visionary. Only usable once a scene, but still nice, simple, and good for what you're trying to do.

Delve continues with being pretty thematic and useful: You go Per+Vision TN 6, and then you get 'past viewing' of a location, seeing what happened there. Gets harder if it's further back, and if you pay 2 Conviction and you're a Visionary primary, you can hear everything said in the area for the period you delve. You get 5 minutes of footage for every success you get. Now, hearing what happened to Christoff Trustfundsman the Vampire on the day in 1923 he had the critical falling out with his butler Woodhouse that led him into vampirism is hard as hell; TN 10 to look into anything further than 5 years back. But still; this power has real use for investigative purposes and it's another 'hey look, Visionary really does do what it says on the tin' power.

Then they go off the rails with Restore. The Visionary at 4 dots can, uh, regrow limbs and stuff. They roll Stamina+Vision and pay 3 Conviction, TN 6+1 per lethal damage the target suffered (max 10). If they get at least 1 success, they convert all Lethal to Bashing immediately, and regrow any severed limbs, lost eyes, etc. They can do this to allies. It's fluffed as them reaching out to another world where you didn't get your arm hacked off by an angry superhuman. Not as as Respire. C'mon, guys, you had such fitting powers up to this point! Already ran out of ideas for divination powers?

Augur, their 5 dot, is a wibbly and useless plot device generator. Pay 3 Conviction, roll Vision+Int, TN 8, and then you see a year or two in the future for a minute per success. But only a 'possible' future, as 'determined by millions of decisions'. So effectively, it's a minor cutscene that won't mean that much besides establishing that if you let the warlock get the sapphires he might open the Gate of Karaesh so you should probably cap him. Nothing called the Gate of whatever is ever good. You guys started so strong! You could've had powers to like, overcome enemy's action economy advantages or let the team go first. At least Restore is useful, if not especially in theme. Though it quickly becomes TN 10 in situations where you really need it, which means that every new die has equal chances to crit or crit fail, so more dice are functionally useless for adding to your chances of success.

ZEAL has some of the most thematically coherent power sets. They're still not generally great, since Hunters never get access to extra actions, passive defenses, or higher init, but they're cool.

Defenders have an issue: Nothing they get actually makes them harder to kill or any better at fighting for the most part. Ward, their initial power, is still pretty decent for a level 1: Roll Zeal+Stamina, TN 6. Any monster trying to approach you must make a straight Stamina roll TN 6 and hit that many successes or they can't draw near, blocked by holy power, while you probably shoot them. They can keep trying once a turn (and only once a turn, no matter how many actions they have) and have to pay a Willpower point every time they try. You can also press forward and push a monster back; they can't get within 1 yard per Zeal. They can still shoot you. Beware Vamp w/Assault Rifle, they are a troubling foe!

Rejuvenate is an actual passive power. A Hunter with Rejuvenate just heals injuries much faster. MUCH faster. We're talking 'should be a 5 month recovery period, becomes 3 weeks'. Bashing levels go away every 10 minutes. Narratively useful, but some actual fast healing/passive defense would be better. You can also pay a shitload of Conviction to let another Hunter or human use your healing chart for an injury, but it costs 2 Conviction per lethal (1 per Bashing) and do you really want to throw that much EXP at it? Remember, you can only hold 10 Conviction. Anyone seriously injured enough to get serious benefit from this costs so much that it fucks the Defender.

Brand is a bit of a weird power. You whap a monster on the nose with a Dex+Zeal TN 6 roll like an attack. They cannot active-dodge this, the TN 6 is just if they resist being touched. Then you roll straight Zeal, TN 6, Conviction can be Risked on this. This determines how long the message you burn into the monster's flesh will last; on 9-10 successes, it's forever. Fuck you, dracula, you have 'I am a shitty vampire' branded on your face forever and have to explain your weird tattoo. This also inflicts Lethal damage equal to your successes, and while the creature can try to Soak if they can Soak Lethal, 1 wound always gets through. And they can never heal that Wound while branded. Note you could just Brand a monster to death if you had a kick-circle of Defenders. Even a woof can't heal the Brand damage or get it to go away.

Champion is a thematically awesome power that will mostly get you murdered. "A Defender with this power is now confident they can face their foe one-on-one." Hmm, that Defender sure doesn't have any of the combat abilities necessary to do that, book. Are you sure about this? Roll Appearance+Zeal (hope you're a sexy Defender Paladin) TN6, vs. monster's Wits TN 6. If you win, it has to fight you. Also spend 1 Conviction. You can spend more to draw the aggro of more monsters but you are already making a mistake making a vamp focus fire you, do not compound your error. If the monsters didn't want to fight at all, Champion doesn't work. This is a 'My Defender Is Going To Die' button, really.

Burn is extremely good, or would be if you had the other abilities to back it up. You get covered in your blazing Defender Spirit and roll Stamina+Zeal, TN 6, 2 Conviction cost. It lasts 1 turn per success. While active, anyone physically attacking you in melee or touching you suffers Lethal damage equal to your successes. Remember you had at least 10 Zeal to use this. If you punch someone, they take Str+Successes Lethal damage. If you grapple someone, it is a bad time for them. Once again, bypassed instantly by Vampire With Assault Rifle, ever the foe of Hunters. Zeal really wants you to get into melee with superhumans, which seems dubious.

Judges are generally portrayed as the smarter, better, more moral Zealots since the other two are 'simplistic' in their thinking. They try to figure out what the enemy is and how to fight it most efficiently. If that just sounds like a Visionary but without so much wibbling, you win a prize.

Level 1 for Judges is Discern, which lets the Judge see when blinded or in the dark, and lets them ID monsters without Second Sight. Per+Zeal, TN 6, every success is 10 minutes of darkness/blinding vision and effectively gives you Second Sight at the same time. Also, with 2 successes or better, you can identify stuff like 'what kind of monster killed this guy we found ripped up in an alley'. Heck, you can even do that from the pants-shreds left behind by a woof that forgot to learn the Rite of Pants. This power's doin' a lot of good work for a level 1!

Burden is like Ward, but you stare at a monster and your Judgin' eyes are so scary that it's fixed in place, unable to move. If you can see multiple monsters, your angry Witch Hunter stare is so powerful that it can hold them all in place. A wide brimmed hat gives no bonuses to these rolls, but you can probably pull it off in addition to your dramatic trenchcoat. Roll Stamina+Zeal, TN enemy Stamina+3 (use the highest in the group if you're trying to freeze a group, and only roll once). For every success, you stick the enemy in place for 1 turn as long as you keep your eyes on them. Start shooting. However, they can shoot back; goddamnit, Vamp w/Assault Rifle, will your villainy never end!? This will actually cure possession; stare at the ghost, it gets stuck, allies pull the human host forward to separate them, celebrate exorcism; that's right in the text. Teleporting monsters (like woofs with the Umbra) can try to escape by rolling Stamina+Trait vs. TN 7 or your Zeal.

Balance is extremely good. Stare at a monster and pronounce your judgement in whatever dramatic fashion you see fit. Then roll Wits+Zeal, TN enemy Stamina+2. For every success you roll, the monster cannot spend WP/mojo for any abilities for one hour. This means completely shutting down an enemy's superpowers. Almost all of them. Vamps and woofs can't get extra actions, woofs can't heal, Mages lose their magic, etc. Oh yeah. That's the good Judgin'. You might notice Judges are Cool People who do Cool Things and do them while dramatically yelling judgements at terrible monsters and crushing a vampire's will with their steely glare. This is because Judges are, objectively, the Coolest.

Pierce lets you grab someone's face and yell 'SUFFER ME NOW' and now you know their thoughts and crimes. Also makes you a lie detector. Spend 1 Conviction: Now you know whenever someone lies to you during the next scene if you hit Per+Zeal TN 6. Grab a guy's face and stare into their past for Per+Zeal, TN 7. If you succeed, you see a human's last encounter with the supernatural, or if done to a supernatural, possibly while shouting 'DID YOU STEAL THE SAPPHIRES', you'll see if they did, in fact, steal the sapphires; the vision will be of them stealing the sapphires or, if they didn't, of them knitting at home when the sapphires were stolen, proving their alibi. This is a super useful power in an investigative horror game! Good job, Judges. So far everything you have is thematic and actually potentially useful or cool! What will you do for your capstone?

Expose is not the most useful power in the game, but it is the most hilarious. You summon your best Judgin' yell/grimace and then roll Zeal after paying 2 conviction, TN 8. Depending on successes, you change the radius of the power, starting at 15 square feet, going allll the way up to a full square mile. Every single monster in the area can no longer pass for human and normal humans will see and remember them like Hunters. It lasts the rest of the scene, I think, though it isn't actually clear how long it stays on. It also won't show off Hunters as odd, but if I was GMing I'd make it make people see your Edges like a Hunter since you're effectively granting the masses Second Sight. Not only does it reveal everything, it reveals them in their worst-possible form to ensure people potentially get to forming torch and pitchfork mobs (you may need to do some extra work to get them to do this). Sure, normal humans don't stand a chance against the WoD, but from a point of view of the game's themes if its mechanics/setting could execute them better? This is an amazingly cool capstone power and the kind of thing all these level 5 Capstones should be trying to be. Congratulations, Judges, all 5 of your powers are fitting and cool.

Avengers start strong. Avengers only really have 2 great powers and 3 shitty ones. But their great power is the most hilarious power in the game: Cleave. You imbue an existing melee weapon with magic power, or summon one out of thin air, or gain blazing fists of holy fury: Whatever you did, you can use Dex+Brawl or Dex+Melee with it as a normal attack to do its normal damage+2, and turn all its damage Lethal, and make it punch ghosts. You can make Ghost Puncher: The Avenger Who Punches Ghosts. Inventive Avengers have also used this power to, say, grab a grating the monster is standing on and charge it with holy fire mojo; no actual rules on what this does, but the book suggests it earlier as a cool thing to do. An existing weapon will eventually explode; it lasts rounds equal to its normal damage bonus (So, 2 rounds for Wil's katana) and after that you have to make Zeal rolls to keep it. Explicitly, this same property can also be used to let the Avenger grab a locked door and charge it until it explodes. You can also manifest weapons out of nowhere; they won't explode and do Str+2 damage, Lethal. Same if you trust only your fists. This also lets you Risk Conviction on melee attacks. This is the Avenger's signature trick, their best move, and they get it immediately. It won't really even the odds with really dangerous monsters, but it's damn cool and very useful against lesser ones.

Trail lets the Avenger put a smokey magic trail on a fleeing monster with Zeal+Perception TN 6. For every success, the trail lasts 6 hours and makes tracking the beast easy. Allies with seeing powers and monsters can see the trail too with a TN 7 check for whatever sense power they're using. Simple enough.

Smolder is potentially useful; it creates a divine smokebomb that silences all sounds of combat within and hides you from sight, making all attacks much harder...except Hunters with Second Sight aren't effected. Roll Manipulation+Zeal, TN 7. You fill a 10 cubic foot area with smoke, and if you spend Conviction, extend it another 10 feet per Conviction. Lasts 1 turn per success, can dissipate early if you want. All sound inside is heavily muffled; an anti-tank rifle would sound like a finger snap if you're just using this as a sniper perch. Any attacks within or into the cloud are at +3 difficulty; Vampire w/Assault Rifle, your villainy ends now! This does not affect the Hunters who can see through the cloud. The GM can randomly decide that a supernatural has good enough senses to ignore this power with a TN 7 sense test, so beware: If the GM likes Vampire w/Assault Rifle, you can't stop them, even with this, the power designed to stop Vampire w/Assault Rifle.

Surge is simple. Spend 1 Conviction. For this Scene, divvy up your 10 Zeal points and put them in your physical stats, cap 6. That's all it does, but hey. I'm down. Wil with 6 Stamina, Dex, and Str is more dangerous than Wil with 2 Stamina, 5 Dex, and 4 Str. Still not going to make the difference. Where's my extra actions or health levels, Hunter? Wil thirsts for blood juice!

Finally, Smite just plain sucks. Worst capstone overall. It's just a Dex+Zeal TN 6 roll (though it cannot be Dodged or Blocked) that lightning bolts a fucker for Str+Successes Lethal for 1 Conviction. Sure, it's fitting, but that's it? My epic level 5 power I had to plot fiat in is just a basic magic missile? While the Innocent is over there calling down the goddamn Ion Cannon on this smug, bald vampiric prick from Nod? C'mon, guys!

So, as you see: Edges aren't that powerful. Judges are cool dudes. Hunters are probably fucked. You don't need to admonish me not to play a superhero when the rules already ensure I'll be running for my life from Vamp w/Assault Rifle at every turn, game.

Next Time: Actual Main Game Rules, 167 Pages In

The Tyranny of Rule Zero

posted by Night10194 Original SA post

Hunter: The Reckoning

The Tyranny of Rule Zero

Rule Zero is one of those things that seems particularly empowering, but in reality it's a designer giving you permission to do something you could always do, and the more you see it invoked (and the more loudly), the weaker a game's design generally is.

It should not surprise you that Hunter is full of 'If you don't like the rules, change them, or write your own, or ignore them and play diceless and narrative' permissions, in addition to the massive chorus of 'The GM Decides'. The GM is very 'powerful' in Hunter, and this is honestly a bad thing on several levels. As a fairly experienced GM, I find that when games do this it just makes a lot of work for me. Suddenly I have to be careful to be fair with everything, rather than being able to trust a game is already fairly designed; I didn't need permission to mess with a game, either, I was going to do that anyway. The less I feel I need to do it, the better. Alternately, the more I can clearly follow a game's design and be careful with additions and modifications, the better.

Hunter is not that kind of game. Let's look at how dice mechanics work in Hunter. So, you have a pool of Stat+Skill, roll against a TN (base 6), count successes, subtract any dice that rolled a 1, and if you had a Specialty reroll any dice that roll a 10. Generally, circumstance will randomly alter your Difficulty, but occasionally status effects or circumstances will instead decide they alter your dice pool instead. There is no real rhyme or reason to when you do one or the other. It's left to how the GM feels, mostly. If you end up with more 1s than successes, you botch and bad things happen. The more successes you have standing, generally the better you've done; you get things done faster, you find more clues, you shoot a guy in the head, etc.

If you try to do multiple things in one short sequence (as decided by your GM, or by being your turn in a combat round), you take a penalty to all dice pools equal to the number of actions you attempted, but you also take -1 on each sequential action.

Example: Wilhelm is trying to kill a woof he somehow won init on and wants to swing, do a cool backflip over the woof, and then swing again at its back. His base dice pool for swinging his katana is 10 (5 Dex, 5 Melee), his dice pool for Cool Backflips is Athletics+Dex, base 8. Since he's trying 3 things in one turn, he drops his initial dice pool for melee to 7. Then when he goes to do the cool backflip, he drops his pool of 8 to 5, then 4 for it being his second action. His second attack instead drops his pool even further, from 10 to 5 (-3 for actions, -2 for third action in sequence). Shouldn't have done the cool backflip, Wil. It added nothing mechanically.

As you can see, don't try to do multiple things unless you're very talented. Also note: Having to reserve actions to active dodge attacks and things? Counts as part of this bullshit. This is one of many reasons your Hunters are kind of fucked against Vamp w/Assault Rifle and their ability to do 6 things penalty free in one turn. You might dodge one bullet. Can you dodge six? No.

Sometimes you oppose someone else directly, either because they're trying to defend your attack or you're locked in a complex staring contest with them. So say Muldoon is arguing with a colleague and uses Manipulation+Science, trying to browbeat them with data on the horrors of Pentex runoff. She rolls 8 dice and gets 5 successes. Her colleague rolls Manipulation+Law to cite that Pentex has a lot of money and should get to do whatever it wants, and gets 3 successes. Muldoon has thus succeeded, but only with 2 Successes; the opposition's successes eat your successes like you rolled 1s. This will, I believe, cause a botch if you roll any 1s and they beat you if you're going by pure RAW, but naturally this is not clarified at any point.

Sometimes you will be rolling on intervals to see how long something takes; count successes as you go. Say Wil is trying to puzzle his way through an occult manuscript that Muldoon scoffed at. The GM declares each check takes 1 evening's study, and he rolls his 3 Occult and 2 Intelligence against the book's 6 TN. The GM also declares he needs 10 total successes to decipher the tome. Wil would keep rerolling his pool every night he spent studying until he got the 10 successes to be done with it. This is usually done when racing against time, such as when checking for Muldoon to cure Wil of the weird blood poisoning he got by being coated in the blood of the damned before he turns into some kind of abberant horror or grows eyes on his brain. Don't roll in that stuff, Wil.

Also, if you have a lot of time and keep failing at something, every time you fail and have time to try again, the Difficulty goes up 1.

So this all seems reasonably simple, but I've just described multiple different resolution mechanics, but more importantly: Much of the rest of this section is full of example situations and assigned difficulties and tests. The GM sets which stats and skills are rolled for every test; this is not like Myriad Song where the player declares 'I'm gonna try to use Academics, is this a reasonable use of the skill?'. The GM decides, say, that this time you have to use Appearance for the test to talk your way out of a ticket so the cop doesn't search your car. Or this time you have to use Manipulation. Or this one's Wits instead of Int or Stamina instead of Strength. There is also no actual guidance on when and why to set TNs to what. The variable TNs for successes will vastly alter the probability of a roll. Also, because 1s cancel successes, if you roll at Difficulty 10 you actually have the same overall chance of success if you roll 1 die or 20. The 1s cancelling successes really isn't taken into account in designing any of the systems on display here.

There are many mechanical levers for altering probability here, and absolutely no consideration or thought goes into using them. The entire mess is designed around the GM making decisions, and then assigning whatever number they want. 'If a plan is particularly clever or amusing, the GM may also award automatic success'. One of the things that really stands out for me in this book is the way it repeatedly talks about its own rules as something that get in the way and take you out of the story. The dice, etc are treated as boring formalities that limit creativity; if this is the case, why the fuck does it have so many dice mechanics? Why is your character to heavily defined by what their numbers say they can do? There's no actual concern for math, balance, or mechanical design here; everything is done on gut feeling and 'the GM will fix it'. I hate that. I paid money for this book. I paid for someone to do game design. And here they're asking me to do their goddamn job for them.

So while you're heavily designed by the granular minutiae on your sheet (which you were also told to pay no mind to while writing them), the game just sorta...expects the GM will decide what happens most of the time. What Difficulty is trying to do a Cool Backflip? Who knows. What difficulty is it to try to invent a cure for the ash plague that some asshole vampire is spreading to the kine? Who knows. How do you determine or set these numbers, or decide how many successes should be needed or what the interval is on an extended test? Who knows. The GM will make it up as they go along. But don't worry, you have permission to throw these ideas out! After all, these are just rules, they get in the way.

Some of this comes from the game's inability to decide its tone, I'm certain of it. It has very little focus as a game, so it can't tell you what you'll be doing. Bringing in the Spire comparison again, in Spire, you are a revolutionary. Your goal is to come up with ways in the fiction to try to leverage your strengths, avoid direct conflict, subvert enemies, flip enemy agents, and change the world, while dealing with a situation where you are outmatched and will have to make serious compromises and difficult decisions to succeed. Here, what are we aiming for? Realism? A model of human frailty? A story about revolution? Van Helsing? The rules don't know what they're trying to accomplish, and more importantly, the writers are eager to remind you over and over again that they consider the rules sort of a pointless formality (that fills a lot of the book) anyway. Are the Hunters doomed? Are the Hunters heroes? What is this game actually about? Hunter doesn't actually know, and its rules don't really care anyway. Hence all the paeans to Rule Zero, defender of shitty game design.

Next Time: Killing Monsters

Thematically Necessary, Mechanically Terribly

posted by Night10194 Original SA post

Hunter: The Reckoning

Thematically Necessary, Mechanically Terribly

So! Combat. I want to remind you (because I cannot emphasize this enough) that the game does not want you to make Wilhelm Metzger, master of the saber and swift Hunter of darkness, because it worries that a 'combat monster' character will turn things into an unrealistic action movie that weakens the deep themes of being sad and failing. I just want that in your mind as we get into how much good 'ole Wil can actually do in battle.

Combat is essential to the story Hunter is trying to tell, and Combat is already in a design space that is very challenging. See, Hunter requires confrontation. Hunter is a game about acting against terrible things you never knew existed. Most of these things are much more powerful than humans, and most of these things are deeply entrenched. You are challenging things with tremendous temporal and supernatural power, and that simply isn't going to happen without some of them trying to kill you. Thus, the writers have already set up a challenging design goal: Combat needs to be dangerous, and needs to come with ways to simulate how powerful your foes are but how you can leverage the few advantages you have to surprise and defeat them. You need to be able to confront the objects of your hunt for the game's core to make sense, but the fact that they outmatch you in direct combat has to come across, too; for what the writers are going for, you can't just be gothic badass action heroes who kill ten thousand devils (though that would be a fun game). They have set themselves up to need a combat system based on assassination, preparation, and guerilla action.

Guess what Storyteller really can't do? We get a bunch of confused writing about how an Imbued Hunter is a living weapon who can cross the line in the sand and take the fight to the supernatural (remember: You also aren't supposed to be superheroes! No-one would just act! But you must act!) and then it's into combat.

So combat is a goddamn mess because it's trying to be gritty and 'realistic' like many 90s combat systems, which in effect just means that you want to end-run around its rules as much as possible and you want to go first. The more you can break the action economy (Hunters cannot do this in any way), the more you can take hits or make dodges without using the normal defensive system, and the more you can do it all before your opponent, the more you will win. Initiative is one of the most important rolls you can make in a combat; in testing, Wil was often able to kill some of the lesser monsters from the Bestiary if he won Init in single combat. Init is Dex+Wits (hope you bought Wits; you probably knew to buy Dex if you were fighting, because 90s game, so of course agility/dex/whatever is the most powerful combat stat)+d10. Everyone rolls at the start of each turn, but realistically a lot of serious combats will probably end on the first turn or two since your PCs are very fragile and their goal is to kill the enemy before they act if at all possible.

Next, you propose actions and lock in what you're trying to do this turn, including multiple actions. You do this in reverse Init order. So say Wil manages to beat a Vamp to the punch, the Vamp declares what they'll do, then Wil can declare his actions based on that. You can reserve actions to defend at that time if you're going first, but this does the whole 'multiple actions' penalty to everything you do, so spending time preparing active defenses rather than trying to move and kill the enemy before they act is probably a losing proposition in the long run. You've probably only got one shot before that thing hulks out, takes 6 turns, and hits you with 6 10+ dice Lethal attacks; don't waste them preparing to maybe dodge ONE of those because you really aren't going to manage to stop all 6. Also note: Multiple Actions outside of firing multiple bullets will take place outside of this initial action, on a separate Init order; this is one of the advantages of guns, that you can fire more than one shot in a 'combo' in one action. While Wil might be able to swing his katana more, he can't do it until after the monster goes due to the Multiple Actions rule, which is a big problem for Wil. Any character that has not yet acted can also abort their entire turn to Defend by spending a WP point or making a WP roll, TN 6. Note this only defends against one attack, so if you do this you'd better be damn sure your buddies will be able to kill that foe and that you aren't going to be targeted again.

You really have to remember in all of this that a Hunter who has taken even 2 wounds starts suffering penalties, and that you can't 'soak' Lethal unless you use the optional 'PCs are more Action Hero and can Soak Lethal' rule. Also, Armor can Soak Lethal damage even in the normal rules, but Armor has a problem. Armor penalizes Dex. This is a 90s game. Dex is your single most important physical combat stat, determining all defenses and all to-hit rolls. A Kevlar Vest with -1 Dex and +3 Armor Stamina might be worthwhile, and -0/+1 Reinforced Clothing is definitely worth wearing (Such as Wil's Hunter's coat! See. Bloodborne knew what was what) since why not, but heavier armor is as bad for you as it is good. Losing offense to gain partial defense is usually going to be a losing proposition since again, you really want to win as fast as possible since active defending is a huge pain in the ass and enemies will blow you away offensively. 5 points of 50-50 Soak against a vamp doing Lethal 10 6 times in one turn is not going to save you and having 3 less points of Dex (which includes Init) might have been the difference between having a slim chance and having none.

Seriously, do not bother trying to balance attack and defense: Let's take Wil. Wil tries to take a swing and invest his Conviction in Cleaving a foe as a single action? 14 dice. Even most enemies in this game will have a tough time dodging that, and if he's going first they actually have to burn their whole turn to try to Dodge, I think. The active defense rules are very poorly written; you can declare one Defense among your attacks and if you do you can defend as many times as you get attacked by enemies later in Init order (at a worsening penalty the longer you have to Defend) but it's deeply unclear if you can declare a Defense while fighting later in the order and use that to defend against attacks earlier in the order, taking a penalty to your attack at the end when it's finally your turn. Really, the entire active defense system is a huge clusterfuck. Anyway, say Wil did that while declaring a bunch of other actions, instead; his attack roll would suffer for it and every extra success he gets on the attack turns into more damage, and more damage is one of his only prayers for winning.

I should also note a Combat Round is 3 seconds. So all this rigamarole happens in 3 seconds.

Anyway, if you hit someone, you do damage equal to your weapon's damage+Successes. So say Wil takes that big 'ole 14 dice holy cleave at a guy and gets 6 successes after subtracting any 1s. His Katana does Str+2, and he's Cleaving for +2 more, so he's base Damage 8. Now he's Damage 14. You do damage by making another dice-pool roll vs. TN 6. 1s still remove successes. So on average he'll do about 6 Wounds. Remember: 7 Wounds will take someone out if they don't have extra health levels. And if they suffer any Wound penalties, 6 Wounds will give them -5 to all their dice pools and stops them doing more than crawling away; Wil can fairly easily cripple or kill in one solid blow if his enemy can't soak. That's the only trick he has. Also remember he can only do that once a scene. Most characters cannot Soak Lethal damage. Not even supernaturals, despite that being a thing in their own game lines. You do get a note that supernaturals generally treat gunfire damage as 'bashing' (less lethal) and thus get to Soak against guns, but a blade like Wil's will go through a woof or vamp pretty hard in Hunter. The issue is that Wil has to get close, start close, and win Init; when we get to the bestiary, we will see this is a tall order even for a lightning fast Hunter with 5 Dex. And even then, with average rolls he will not actually drop his target in one.

Another important note: There are whole pages of alternate rules for headbutting, scratching, kicking, etc. They are useless. Every single one of these moves either effectively does nothing different than just punching a guy, or somehow raises the TN of your swing and that is really not worth it for +1 dice of damage. Similar for firing a three round burst, for +1 to TN but +2 dice. Firing a full auto burst is +10 dice of accuracy but +2 TN. You can also try to shoot multiple enemies, or fire a burst into an AoE, but again; no-one actually ran any numbers on what these actions really do for you. You can aim for the head or other parts of the body but this just raises TN (which hurts your chances a lot) for small amounts of extra damage. Each gun has a 'rate of fire', the maximum number of extra action shots you can take in one move. Using two guns at once 'applies +1 TN to the off-hand gun unless you are ambidextrous (since there are no rules for how to be ambidexterous, feel free to have your Deep PC Concept include their challenge to master both hands)' but otherwise just lets you take more shots. Twin Desert Eagles can be very effective, in true 90s fashion. Or twin Colt Pythons; learn from the heroes of Resident Evil and use a magnum. You can also try to hit a vamp in the heart with a stake crossbow, but this is a TN 9 shot and has to inflict 3 actual damage or it doesn't work, and the crossbow is a Damage 5 weapon that takes 5 turns to reload, sooooo...

Also, something to keep in mind: Guns do a fuckload of damage if you are human. Even against monsters, they might do enough Bashing to put the bastard down and it might be worth it to be able to snipe them in an alleyway and avoid getting into close combat. Multiple snipers on the roof while Wil draws his katana and gets the bloodsucker's attention before the dots sweep across his head and blow the asshole away? Might work if you can pull it off. But also keep in mind how Bashing works; you fill in half-marks on your health boxes for Bashing damage. These cause the associated Wound penalties, and once someone is Incapacitated by Bashing they drop and further Bashing finishes the checkmarks, becoming Lethal. On one hand, this works fine on a vamp; you can riddle them with bullets until they drop to the ground in Torpor then walk up and finish them with your dracula-killin' bowie knife like Quincy Morris and God intended. If your enemy does not suffer Wound penalties though? They effectively have double HP against Bashing. So don't expect to drop zombies too easily until your Deagles have blown off both their arms, blown them in half, and even then you might need to get close and stomp their head to jelly with your boot. Guns can be effective since they attack so much (and your team can focus fire more easily), and they're a lot less investment heavy than hand to hand, but an awful lot of the supernatural laughs off bullets unless they're high caliber and they eat a lot of them.

For example, a Colt Python (Heavy Revolver; one of the few things I approve of is that at least WW didn't get super into trying to differentiate every goddamn caliber) does 6 damage. Against a normal human, this is an average of 3 wounds a shot. Against a woof, vamp, or zombie? They get to throw their 4-8 Stamina into resisting it. And against a zombie you need to do 20 damage to kill them (10 health levels, ignore wound penalties, so takes 20 Bashing). Guns...well, they can have problems against the big boys. And the vampire won't have this problem with you when they shoot back. It's not uncommon for a vamp to carry a piece.

Melee weapons generally do damage based on Strength. Knives and stuff do +1, a katana does +2 (why would you use any other sword, this is WoD. All Swords are equally effective though, so if you want to machete some fuckers go ahead), a big fire axe does +3. Also note that every weapon has a Concealment rating: P (Pocket), J (Jacket), T (Trenchcoat, because of course) and N (No). Wil's Katana is T, as is a sawn off shotgun, so like any good Hunter he wears a long coat with a high collar that he can cover part of his face with and conceals his blade and blunderbuss under it. Muldoon thinks he's a fucking weirdo and dresses like a normal person since she can hide her pistol in a shoulder holster under her labcoat or in her suit.

Like I said, combat is a complete and total mess. It really doesn't have much room for how you're supposed to find ways to overcome the tremendous advantages of your enemies, even though combat is thematically necessary to the game. It shouldn't be the only thing the game is about, and there are other ways to resist, sure...but how are you going to do a game with a theme of rising up in righteous anger against age-old oppressors who had no idea you were coming if you never take a brick in a tube sock to the face of a smug Ventrue businessman or throw the occasional molotov? Plus, if you have no rules for escaping your superhuman enemies, how will you deal with the PCs being caught and attacked when they're unready? Combat and confrontation are high stakes and very important to the game's story, and its system just cannot handle the sorts of things it needs to to make combat engaging. Worse, PCs don't really have the tools to engage with the combat system that exists; their enemies definitely do!

Next Time: Bookworm55 is an idiot

Night10194 critiques Bookworm55; What kind of idiot has numbers in their handle?

posted by Night10194 Original SA post

Hunter: The Reckoning

Night10194 critiques Bookworm55; What kind of idiot has numbers in their handle?

The Bestiary is entirely in-character except for the actual statblocks, and our main narrator for this slice of fun is a very stupid Innocent. Bookworm55 is a college student and path of Mercy Hunter who is in hospital on account of his legs being bodily ripped off of him by a vampire. He was trying to do interview with a vampire stuff with a hot vampire girl and then a smarter Hunter tried to follow him and put her down, and she got, uh, upset. I say a smarter Hunter because A: Bookworm spends basically the entire Bestiary talking about how 'maybe if we just talk to monsters, many of them are actually better than humans and smarter and faster and greater' and B: She was trying to blood bond him. If you follow the fiction properly, he was getting led into a trap by a vamp who was making him pay for their talks by feeding on him, and he mentions having been fed some of her blood and realizing it didn't seem to do anything to a Hunter; she was trying to make the stupid bastard her little pet Ghoul. So yeah. Good job, idiot. Now you have no legs, got your buddy killed, and are sitting in a hospital writing on the internet and waiting to see if your vamp buddy comes to finish eating you.

When we get to stats, I will be classifying monsters by Can Muldoon Kill It, Can Wil Kill It, and Avoid.

Bookworm is our main writer for the whole thing and I hate him. We get italicized quotes from other Hunters in the field, and most of them are a little less 'I dunno, maybe if I hit the vampire, I'll be even worse than the vampire'/ types. But after many of those, our friend Booky will have a quote like 'Well, the werewolf might not've ripped his arm off if he hadn't tried to stop the woof from killing two men over a dice game!'. Booky also starts off with 'I've never done drugs or alcohol or traveled much, I just walk around and try to talk to monsters and read about people on the internet'. He also starts with a big disclaimer that, of course, he's an 'unreliable narrator' and everything he says could be wrong, which is one of the annoying things about White Wolf In Character Fiction. It saves on editors and coordination if you can contradict yourself a shitload then go 'oh, uh, unreliable narrator!'. This isn't like Old World Bestiary, where we get a bunch of different perspectives so that you can come to your own conclusions; this is about a whiny kid on the internet posting quotes from actual Hunters and telling you not to be mean to the man-eating horrors of the night. "Don't use my guide as a 'how to kill'! I'm writing it so you can understand the monsters are people!" he says, after one of them tried to mind-slave him and ripped off his legs. 'Many monsters are far better people than humans!'

We start the party with the best entry, though: Mages. See, Booky ran into a Mage he knows only as Purple who seemed to take a liking to the silly lad and took him under his wing a bit. Purple led a charmed life; that seems to be how warlocks and wizards work their magic. Guy mugs him? Gun jams. Needs a twenty to pay for his steak and eggs at the diner? Someone dropped one under the seat. Car about to run him down? Wizard falls into an open manhole to escape. Purple told him very little, and enjoyed being obtuse and having someone to be wise at while he enjoys his diner food and coffee. Whenever Booky asked if some new twist of fortune, Purple would just smile and say 'doesn't look like it, does it?' . From what Booky could tell, there are a bunch of philosophies among Mages but they don't make any goddamn sense and Mages don't explain them. Also, sometimes Mages get together in big cabals on top of skyscrapers and have magic duels where they call down lightning at each other for reasons that don't make any sense to him. I like to imagine it's like the fight between Lo Pan and Eg Shen in Big Trouble in Little China, really.

Rules-wise, Mages aren't anything special, except they have a huge Willpower pool for mojo and can spend 'up to their Wits in WP' a turn to 'have tremendous luck'. This is left entirely to GM fiat. Whether or not any of the heroes can kill a wizard is basically down to GM May I. Which is pretty fitting to oMage from everything I've heard about it, since arguing with your GM about what your magic can do and what counts as coincidental seems to have been most of the game. Hunters generally see Mages as weirdos who aren't that important to their struggle, since Mages usually don't eat people.

Vamps are the next big entry and they're a doozy, both fluffwise and ruleswise. I've already gone into Booky's dumbass adventures with the sexy vampire party girl who was tricking him, but you also get a description of a Hunter whacking a couple zombies only to be accosted by a stereotypical Italian mobster with fangs telling him not to fuck with his pets again (Hello, extremely racist and badly done clan Giovanni). Vamps are described as sexy, powerful, and extremely charismatic. They get all the girls, so they can eat them. Vamps don't like sunlight. Vamps really don't like fire. Vamps need human blood; animal blood won't do it. Our idiot author takes the time to wonder if it's really immoral for a vampire to eat a human, since humans are so inferior to them, because he has been deeply charmed by a Vamp and probably mind-whammied without his Conviction up a couple times. Crosses and holy water won't do anything (Unless you are Grunfeld Bach, hero of True Faith, but Booky can't know about True Faith), stakes to the heart will stun them but good fucking luck staking a superhuman superfast vamp, vamps bleed (this is where he lets on she fed him her blood, which if you know Vampire means you know she was trying to Ghoul him), and killing them for good is fucking hard. You need to behead them or burn them to ash.

Despite this, rules-wise? Vamps aren't that durable until they activate their Be Durable power. You get 3 vamp profiles: Young ones (Wil Can Kill It, Muldoon MIGHT Kill It), who get only a single extra turn from superspeed, only +2 Stamina (which can Soak Lethal) from durability, and only +2 Str from Superstrength (they also have to spend 1 'willpower' (it's blood) to activate any of those). They also have pretty human stats and not too high of skills. Neonates? Hunters can handle Neonates. Medium Vamps are those who've been around for a few decades, and this is where it gets tough. They have 5 Dex native, and get 'extra actions on their turn equal to their Dex' if they activate superspeed, +4 to Str for Potence, and +4 Stamina from durability. Also have mind control and hiding powers, but Hunters can get around those. The real problem is this asshole has +11 to Init, with 5 Dex, 6 Wits. A better built Wil could have +9. So Vamp probably goes first. If it doesn't, Wil can kill it, but it probably does. The Ancient Vampire can't be fought in the combat engine because it's Extra Actions are literally 'As many as the GM thinks it should have to reflect its incredible power', etc etc. Plus, even if Hunters took its powers away, it's Init +14 and still attacks at Dex 7 and combat skill 5-6, with all its stats in the 6s and 7s. You're fucked if you try to fight one. Vamps hate fire and sun, so you're probably better off trying to trick one into the firey orb's cleansing gaze than trying to fight the damn thing.

Next we get zombies. I don't remember zombies being a big deal in the WoD, but I suppose they really needed an enemy weak enough for Hunters to actually fight in the combat engine. Did I mention if you're fighting more than one foe your Difficulty for attacks and defenses go up by 1 per? That's pretty relevant to swarms of weak zombies. Zombies come in three flavors, though fluff-wise they're all pretty much the same. All of Booky's stories about the deaders are about them coming back to get retribution; sometimes they stick around after killing the frat boys who ran them over and keep axe-murdering frat boys until they're put down, sometimes they do their unfinished business then get back in the grave, and sometimes they're so rotted and dead that they can't even remember what brought them back. All of them are immensely hard to kill. The Hidden are extremely intelligent and have 5s in all physical stats, and are essentially Wights; these are undead that will pass for human among humans since humans without Hunter powers gloss over their 'wrong' appearance. They're intelligent, fast, skilled, and strong. They usually have day jobs and cover lives, while being serial killers or working on vengeance or whatever in the night. They take 15 Health Levels of damage to kill, suffer no wound penalties, and can regenerate a wound a round, too. Wil can kill a Hidden since they're both acting on human action economy and he's using a weapon they're vulnerable to, but it'd be a fight. Muldoon really can't.

Walkers are noticeably weaker and easier to spot even without using Second Sight, though all normal humans will 'panic and run' at noticing a zombie of any kind (no word on if this means Hunters just freak out randomly and run around until they're far enough away to spend Conviction to be able to play the game). They're effectively just Hidden, but weaker, and they often do their one task and then go back to the grave. Our story with them is a guy who came back and killed his wife for cheating on him. Walkers are very, very direct. They're not stupid, but for example, the example Hidden took a job at a bank and used it to find out who was at what frat house at the university so she could go and kill her own killers (and then keep murdering people on the campus because monster). A Walker would get up from where they were run down, march right after the car that killed them, march into the frat house, and just kill whoever was there and then crawl back into a grave. Both Wil and Muldoon can potentially kill a Walker if Muldoon's lucky with her gun. They're still dangerous, but nowhere near as quick and skilled as a Hidden, and they 'only' have 10 health levels.

Shamblers are just straight mindless Resident Evil zombies. Blow off the head completely and they die. Shoot them a bunch and they fall over for a bit then get back up. Tough, stupid, and as close as Hunter ever gets to mooks. Due to the Multiple Opponents rule, Wil would still struggle a lot with a group of them, but he'd kill a lone one with such ease that you might as well not get the dice. They can't use weapons and just bite and punch. They're slow as hell, but still have 10 Health and suffer no penalties. Even Muldoon can take one of these if she has enough ammo and room to back up. Gonna take a lotta ammo, though; they're Stamina 6. Note they can't Soak Lethal; none of the zombies can. Wil's Katana still blows right through their defenses.

Booky leaves us with a last note that Hidden and Walkers should be talked to if possible, despite all his examples describing them as vengeful serial killers. If you have noticed a theme where he doesn't seem to notice he's presenting these things as relentless killers that can only be stopped by violence (or manipulators who are using a naive Hunter) while generally taking their side in things, well, that's just Booky for ya'.

Next Time: What the hell is a Goblin

Seriously, what the hell is a Goblin. Is this from Changeling? Did anyone play Changeling Original? It seemed terrible.

posted by Night10194 Original SA post

Hunter: The Reckoning

Seriously, what the hell is a Goblin. Is this from Changeling? Did anyone play Changeling Original? It seemed terrible.

So we start off with some fae. They gotta be fae because their rules say Cold Iron will fuck them like silver fucks a woof and that's a sure fire signal of faerie bullshit. They're weird gremlin people and Booky describes them attacking a maternity ward while he was in the hospital, seeking to drink the blood of newborns. A new father who was there to visit his new kid got Imbued on the spot and turned into an Avenger so he could actually do something while Booky just watched these things try to eat babies, and that drove the monsters off. Booky seems so sad the man turned into one of those Avenger brutes, of course; maybe if it hadn't been his own baby in danger he could have been understanding and caring about the monsters instead of reacting to baby-eating gremlin horrors with 'holy shit, kill it!'. They're really not that dangerous, mechanically. They have completely undefined 'physical powers', so who knows if those grant them any kind of mechanical bonus. They can make WP tests to try to eat you with their murderous gremlin teeth (WP 8, every success is 1 level of lethal damage, so you better dodge if you can, or go first). They can eat your car, too, if you leave them alone with it for a scene. They can also create swords and axes out of thin air for one WP. Gremlins can't soak damage from 'Cold Iron', but they also can't actually Soak Lethal, so...Wil just beheads the little shit with a katana and Muldoon shoots them. Either character can kill one of these, and Wil can do it easily. They don't even have great Init.

Ghosts are Ghosts. Most of them aren't that harmful and just want to be put to rest. They tend to be spooky and weird, and Hunters without something like Wil's Cleaving Katana can't actually hurt them. Booky's fluff about ghosts is mostly useless because it's about a subplot with his Mage friend Purple getting in trouble and maybe being grabbed by the Technocracy rather than telling you anything useful about Ghosts. I don't care about your damn subplots, kid! I'm here to get fluff and material to use in my games, not to read your damn novella. Ghosts can mess with your feelings, teleport, and fuck with tech, but aside from inspiring dangerous emotions to feed on them in the case of some asshole wraiths, the average ghost really isn't a threat; they're more of a puzzle/mystery. Unless Wil comes screaming into the parlor and activates his fire katana and beheads the spirit while Muldoon was trying to solve its murder, causing her to be very cross with him for trying to steal the spotlight and also for being a dick to a ghost who was having a hard century as it was. That scamp. Poltergeists are bigger dicks and are exactly as you expect; if you're not careful, here comes the barrage of levitating knives. Again, Wil can kill these because Cleave can sword ghosts, Muldoon can't. They're able to fuck with you physically while you might not be able to do the same, and that's a bad situation to be in.

Now, the one way both kinds of Ghosts can become a problem is possession. As illustrated by the story of a Hunter who killed an old man who menaced him with a shotgun (he was unarmed at the time; accidentally knocked the old guy out a window while trying to take the gun). Awhile later, his girlfriend gets possessed and starts throwing him around the room while screaming about how he 'killed me'. That's what happens with vengeful spirits. They can make the human they're possessing much stronger, and worse, you run into really weird legal hurdles if you have to kill a possession victim. Even trying to wrestle a kid with a knife to the ground isn't going to look good when the cops get there. Ghosts will also possess animals; probably way more free to put a bullet in a possessed hyena, but it's still a super-hyena-ly strong hyena with ghost powers so that might be trouble. Plus, you know, killing the host doesn't do shit to the ghost. Second Sight will at least show you someone's possessed and a few Edges can get them free. Then, once the ghost is out, call on Wil to light his katana on holy fire and chop the ghost in half. Good work, Wil.

Finally, we get to the other marquee enemy: The Woofs. Booky's stories at least include a case of woofs actively helping Hunters before he moves into cases of wolves ripping people in half for no reason; the first is a story about Hunters who ran into 20 zombies when they expected three. Suddenly, a team of four giant wolves appeared out of nowhere, tearing into the monsters before one of them turned into a huge wolf-man with a giant sword. By the end of it, when the woofs realized the humans who had helped them fight the zombies weren't running away and screaming in insanity, one turned back into a human (I hope he knew the Rite of Pants) and asked if they were okay, giving them a hand and helping them get to safety. It is possible to run into friendly woofs who are just interested in fighting the zombie/vampire/Wyrm critter/gremlin/whatever you were fighting, after all. Not all of them are total jerks. The second story is one where a Hunter was having a drink down in Mexico, watching a rough looking dude lose at dice to two others. Eventually, the loser turned into a giant wolf-man out of frustration and ripped one of the men in half, before tearing the Hunter's arm off for trying to stop him. Booky takes the time to note that the woof probably wouldn't have attacked if the Hunter hadn't interfered in his business. Booky you are really not selling Innocents to me here.

Another Hunter account says he observed a woof single-handedly come in and wreck up the construction site for a new mini-mall before sitting down on a smoking tractor, pulling out the cooler the construction guys had stashed on site, and drinking all their beer for a job well done. The Hunter decided not to interfere because 10 foot woof, and the woof was doing all of this at night when all the workers had gone home; wasn't actually killing anybody so the Hunter didn't think it was worth risking a fight to protect the honor of a mini-mall. Weirder? The woof then vanished into thin air. Woofs can do that. Woofs have many powers. Booky then launches into his own story about finding a sad teenager and taking him to get some food, hearing a weird story from the kid about his magic werewolf family (hidden somewhat behind other words) and how the kid was 'just' 'kin' to them and not a real woof and so they didn't respect him properly and he was lonely and unhappy. Then two woofs in human form showed up to fetch him back to the pack. Being an Innocent, Booky tried his Illuminate powers on them and thus showed both woofs he was looking. Being mysterious, wise native americans (WW loved mysterious, 'wise', racist portrayals of non-whites), one of them looked right at him and said 'Use your light for knowledge, not blinding', and he falls all over himself telling the reader how it was the most profound and wise thing ever, and their wisdom redeemed all shapechangers for him. They're all good, you see, because one of them said something vague to him once while dragging a runaway who was deeply unhappy with his family life home.

Woofs have really weird stats because their stats shift a ton as they, well, shift. Suffice to say even a 'weak' woof is Str 7, Dex 5, Stamina 6 in Big Woof Warform. They can take extra actions equal to their Dex for one WP a turn, and can also spend any of those extra actions regenerating 1 Lethal damage per action, at the cost of 1 more WP per point healed. So if you don't kill a woof, they'll heal to full right quick. Note this costs them actions they could be spending on killing you and it's very WP intensive, so it's not a total loss. Woofs can neither soak nor regenerate damage from silver; silver bullets will let even Muldoon put a hurting on a woof. Unfortunately, because of their enlightened and wise ways, Woofs have high Wits and they already had high Dex, so...good Init. Woofs cannot actually Soak Lethal RAW here, though, so with a lot of luck Wil can actually behead an enormous woof in one blow. This is not something to count on. There are no trivial combats with woofs; these things are killing machines. They're also amazing trackers, very hard to sneak up on, and if they're feeling tuckered out and they get a turn, they can just make a WP roll and a single TN 6 success lets them step into another dimension and leave the fight with no chance of pursuit.

Then they get their pack and come for you tomorrow night, because if you blew your one chance to take out a lone woof they're not gonna stay a lone woof.

Booky then closes out the bestiary by talking more about how good all woofs are because you see, they easily could have killed him but chose not to, then he expands this to all monsters. As if Hunters were the party with power in this situation. Hunters are not exactly superheroes holding the power of life and death over their enemies, which is one of the reasons Booky's admonitions bug me so. The Mercy creeds, as written, tend to be written like it's a trivial choice between killing and not killing. Hunters are horribly outmatched; this Bestiary should tell you that much. Surprise is almost their only hope to actually win any sort of confrontation with monsters. And most of Booky's stories are of monsters slaughtering people for sport, eating people, or in his case, manipulating him and trying to make him a slave, then ripping his legs off. But no. Many of them are better than humans. Kinder. Stronger. Smarter.

This is a place where The Reckoning's confused mechanical writing really messes with what the writers want to do. Plus, given Booky is already in the thrall of a vamp, it's easy to assume he might be bamboozeled by a lot of the other horrors he's writing about. He just ends up looking like a patsy, and you have to deal with this idiot for pages and pages for one of the most important sections of the book. The Bestiary has a few sops to making it possible to win a fight with a monster; Hunters' versions of monsters often have to spend more mojo to do their things, and it's easier to deal damage they can't soak since there's no bothering with Aggravated damage. But on the whole, the game is all 'don't make a combat monster' and then every monster is Dex 5 with 5 in a combat skill and tons of health and physical powers and an assault rifle. All of the monsters are built as combat monsters. Ghosts and maybe Mages are about the only critters you're likely to have a mystery arc about, and everything else assumes you'll have to kill it eventually, with only woofs as potential allies/monsters you could talk to. And meanwhile the game is telling you you must act out and fight these things that have tyrannized humankind for eons, while then contradicting itself and yelling at you for being the bad guy for actually fighting back without asking a ton of questions first, then going on to tell you you need to cower and hide so you can play your character realistically.

Like everything else, Hunter's approach to its monsters undermines the original strong idea at the heart of the game (the victims of supernatural terror suddenly trying to fight back against it) and just wallows around in contradiction and messiness until there's nothing to do.

Next Time: Storytelling.

There's a reason it's called Storytelling

posted by Night10194 Original SA post

Hunter: The Reckoning

There's a reason it's called Storytelling

The Storytelling chapter commits many sins. It's as unfocused as the rest of Hunter because it still can't decide what the damn game is about, but it's also extremely repetitive. All of Hunter is. In fact, I'm gonna go ahead and say for the most part Hunter is a very badly written game; the writing is much too verbose, repeats itself often, and it's got that weird style where someone is really reaching for profundity. A lot of the writing reads like a college undergrad trying to finish a paper and trying to stretch their wordcount while not really having time for editing.

Let's take an example of how unfocused Hunter is here. You know how we've had all this hinting that you can't really trust the Messengers, because a bunch of weird angel voices you don't know dick about giving you the ability to 'see monsters', setting your katana on fire, and expecting you to get to it could logically and easily be using you as their own little murder-machine? Well, as soon as the Storytelling chapter's writer hits on the idea that the GM can use the Messengers to bludgeon the players into sticking together and playing their chronicle, we get a long section about making sure the players realize the Messengers really aren't their enemy at all because using Edges feels good and killing the target you were given makes you feel holy and righteous. This after all that shit about how Hunters shouldn't feel like righteous superheroes. In the same chapter you get a long section telling you Hunting is misery and pain and your characters will be sad and poor and losing all contact with normalcy, then they go into how Hunters consider the Hunt and the kill an incredible high that many of them get off on to the extent that some Hunt just to feel the pleasure of it. Similarly, some sections emphasize that Hunters are still human, then presumably another author pops up to talk about how gaining Edges and Virtues makes you lose contact with humanity and turn into monster that other Hunters have to kill. Then you get more about your righteous struggle against the evils of the night, or you get called a living weapon, then we switch to how you're helpless brutes who are killing monsters who might not be all that evil.

It's really hard to advise people on how to tell a story in your setting when you've got four different perspectives fighting over what your setting even is. The only thing they all agree on is the GM is an important auteur telling an important story; you'll have some little sops to 'working with the players' but they're fig leafs. The majority of the Storytelling section is about the GM as auteur controlling the game. Let's take a look at the Prelude; Hunter is a game that lends itself really well to the PCs all being in the same place at the same time and getting Imbued together. The fact that the other people at their Imbuing saw the same things and can tell them they aren't crazy logically gives them a reason to work together. Reasonable enough. Playing an ordinary day for your PCs, who may or may not know each other, before crazy shit goes down? Good way to start.

The issue comes when they tell you that 'sure it's fine to make your PCs and decide your Creed and Edges and all before play and then just get them during the first session. But have you considered a deeper, more realistic way to do it?' If you guessed that it's 'don't let the PCs decide their Virtues and then assign them as the GM during the Imbuing based on what you think they deserve', you get a prize. Complete with admonitions that if you suspect a player is playing a specific way just to make sure their meek office worker gets Avenger because they think it sounds fun to play, you should give them a different Creed. "Don't let players act out of character just to get the Creed they want!" Again: This event is a massive, traumatic shift in a character's worldview as they confront monsters they never knew existed. I wouldn't consider a serious shift in character to be at all odd or awkward in such a situation. A soldier who has always thought of life in black and white suddenly seeing the conflicts he fought in were engineered by horrible beasts from beyond and shifting his worldview to want to learn why he's been fighting and bleeding his whole life, taking up Visionary when he seemed perfect for Avenger before? That would make perfect sense. A kind and analytical doctor suddenly realizing there IS such a thing as real evil and that fucking goblin is trying to eat a baby, and braining it with a fire poker rather than caring about why it's doing it? Why not?

The Imbuing is a hugely traumatic event and it changing how a PC sees the world forever is the fucking point! Plus, there's nothing wrong with a player coming up with a character and then, because you're making them jump through hoops to get the PC they want, figuring out how to jump those hoops. "I really think Cleave sounds fun to play with so I'm gonna play a scared guy who finally decides to stand up for something when the chips are down" is a perfectly reasonable character concept. The idea that the GM knows the PCs better than the players and should punish them for 'playing out of character' when they first confront monsters belies the fact that the point of this suggestion (and the fact that the book pushes it as the deeper, more dramatic option) is to let the GM control what players play. It even says to make sure you give players different Edges so no-one has the same ones, even if, say, two are both playing Judges. Note that if you assign a player playing a Judge Discern and Cleave and another Discern and Ward, you've just locked both of them out of ever getting their 4 dot powers. You have just made a very serious mechanical decision for your players. GMs should not do this and anything that advises doing so is trash advice.

There is also an awful lot in the Storytelling section about how there's really only one acceptable tone for Hunter: Misery. Hunters are somehow both bullies who get off on the righteous rush of killing their enemies, but also helpless sheep with shotguns. Also, the masses are 'to be used as props' because Hunters are beyond the world of sheeple and they only really matter for purposes of hurting the Hunter by killing their loved ones if they don't sever ties (monsters will go after your family) or to motivate the Hunters. I've got some advice for you, if you're sitting down to write characters: If you think of them as nothing but props for your cool magicmen to fight over, you're going to write really shitty characters. This is the game about humans rising up! And it tells you to make normal humans nothing but props who run and scream and panic and go mad any time they come into contact with anything Hunters fight and who mostly exist to die for dramatic purposes. Fuck you, White Wolf. The weird 'only the magicmen ever matter' bullshit is part of the reason their writing sucks.

There's also a lot about trying to solve out of game problems in game, which is a sure sign of bad GMing. For instance, if a player has played a lot of WoD games and recognizes that the sexy gothic chick at the bar who won't shut up about new bands is a Toreador, and so knows she's got Celerity? The book is like 'actually make her a werewolf just so you can surprise him and kill him'. That is not the solution. The solution is to tell the player 'We're playing Hunter, so the signs you think you see might not even be correct, and also it's a lot more fun for everyone if we play along and play characters who don't have an encyclopedic knowledge of Nodist thought and crazy bullshit WW mythmaking'. And to maybe explain that you might actually shift parts of the cosmology because it's possible the other lines have it wrong. But to do it out of character. Don't just lay an IC trap where the player's OOC knowledge gets them killed; that's petty GM power move bullshit. An honest talk about how this is a different sort of game and how knowledge from other lines might not apply at all is always going to achieve more, and with fewer bad feelings. The game is also upset with the idea that the players may have actually read Chapter 9 and seen what monsters can do. If monsters had more actual weaknesses that players could actually exploit I might be more cautious of that, but c'mon. 'Woof hates silver' and 'Vampires hate sun' are pop culture knowledge that PCs would probably try anyway, because WW monsters are creatures of pop culture.

Also, I cannot emphasize enough how weird it is that they spend so much time telling you 'don't worry about it, the Messengers are totally cool and mean only good things for your PCs, and Inherit the Earth feels awesome so they should just do everything they're told by the mysterious voices in their heads'. Especially with all the other wibbling about 'oh maybe you're a brutal bully killing poor monsters'. The Messengers are one of the most obviously sinister things in the setting, especially when you also add in that PCs start to lose their humanity and 'become a hollowed out vessel for the Messengers' will' as they level up! You can't pull the fucking Chaos Warrior treatment on PCs and then tell me over and over I 'have' to treat these things as uncomplicated good patrons the PCs will come to rally around. And yes, I'm down with the PCs themselves actually being genuine protagonists; if anything, that's one of the draws of Hunter, that a Hunter is doing something brave that can be defined as a genuine good. But the magic angel voices giving you specific targets and being mysterious at you while they hollow out your soul to make room for more soul lasers? That's the thing you stupid assholes decide is the thing a GM needs to portray as unadulterated good in the end? Fucking really?

Next Time: Writing Advice

Writing Advice and Other Odds and Ends

posted by Night10194 Original SA post

Hunter: The Reckoning

Writing Advice and Other Odds and Ends

So one of the things that stands out about Hunter's GMing section is the degree to which it reminds me of AdEva. It's not nearly as bad as AdEva; there's not nearly as much magical realm bullshit going on here. It's more in the general sense of the GM being a controlling auteur who is telling a Deep and Important Story and should be aiming for depth through misery most of the time. There's also a lot of writing advice that looks pretty decent until they present a writing sample as an example. For instance: Don't just tell players how their PCs feel, give a description of place and see what it does to their mood. This is then followed by a three paragraph description of a vampire's house with a bunch of 'LOOK SHE USED TO BE A PERSON BUT THERE'S ALSO A DEAD BODY IS SHE A PERSON STILL!?' heavy-handed, overwritten trash. Look, I know you gotta set scenes, but as a GM you need to realize you also have limited time. If you're sitting there waxing on and on about the romance novels on someone's shelf and the exact scent of decay coming from the trash bag that definitely houses the person she ate last night, it gets old pretty quick. You gotta be efficient; spending an entire paragraph's worth on the smell of blood and decay is a littttle much.

The advice on tone isn't terrible: Decide on a tone for the game and try to hew to it. The issue here is mostly that they write as if only the GM decides the tone of the game, when that should really be a collaborative effort. If you wanted to run a tense spy thriller and your players wanted to ram a truck full of explosives into a vampire's haven while they action-dive out of the cab and slow-walk away from the carnage, you're both going to have a bad time. They also think of tone as a matter of voice, word choice, etc. They forget (like all of the writing advice, really), this is a game! A game with dozens of pages of mechanics. The mechanics are part of the game's tone. I can decide I want a story about tense assassination and revolution all I want; it doesn't really matter because the rules can't really support that. The rules are only really set up for the standard 'your Hunters are basically fucked' hopeless doomed heroes narrative, because that's what happens when their enemies are written as controlling the entire world while also having the ability to take 6 turns at once and go first with an assault rifle. There is no acknowledgement at any point that the game element and game mechanics matter to the writing of the game. You are generally told to ignore them if it would contradict what you want to do.

Look, I've yelled about this before, but I fucking hate this attitude. I think it's the thing I hate the most about this entire design era in RPGs. When I describe the writers on Hunter as 'hostile to game design', I'm not just saying they're bad at it. I'm saying it was never even a consideration, and they consider that a point of pride; they're storytellers, not rollplayers. This is how you end up with a system that again, fights you every step of the way. Storyteller is crunchy, clunky, and slow. It's terribly balanced and over-complex. And it's all of these things because the people writing for games using it are thinking 'well, they shouldn't even need rules, so it doesn't really matter how the rules work.' So you end up with a rules system that takes up much of the book and it's a complete waste of time and money. If I was going to run Hunter, I'd have to pitch pretty much the entire rules-set in the bin, find another engine, adapt it, and then run it, and that's Hunter betting its fluff and setting are good enough that I'm going to bother doing that. They aren't.

One of the other things that grinds my teeth is the focus on 'surprising' players. Yes, they shouldn't know your plot. But there's a bit where the writers are like "Don't just sit down with your players and say 'I want a game that emphasizes surprising twists, unsettling events, and sudden, bizarre changes in the course of the story', just do it!" No! Bad! DO that! Say that! And then follow with 'Does that sound fun?' or 'Does anyone else want to add something?' That is literally word for word something you should do when sitting down with your players and planning your game! Tell them what you want to run, ask them if they want to play, and ask if they have suggestions or ideas or whatever! Collaborate! That's the fucking point!

The entire reason I love GMing RPGs is because I have an audience right there who participate in the process. It's a lot more fun than writing fiction solo! Sitting around with friends and running a mystery and realizing that a proposal the players have for what's going on actually makes more sense with the clues given than what I originally planned and shifting things around to make that the case? That's fun! Changing the direction of a story because the players are really interested in something over there? That's what it's about. Similarly, players and GM being comfortable enough to outright discuss the progress of the game and communicate openly is a good thing. Being open about what you're trying to do with a game is a good thing. Surprising players by just running roughshod and making all the decisions as the Auteur GM is just going to piss everyone off; you'll be upset if and when they start pushing against your Grand Deep Narrative and they'll be pissed off about being dragged through someone else's failed novel pitch. The whole advantage, the whole purpose of a conventional RPG as fiction is that it doesn't have a single author, and it's one of the reasons all this GM Auteur stuff annoys me. Not to mention the ruleset being very heavily 'The GM Decides' gives the GM even more power than usual and that can lead to bad table dynamics.

Their example tones and concepts for games are also kind of funny because even the most optimistic one is all about how victory seems close and is never actually there. All of the tones suggested are varying degrees of 'the enemy is endless, your family is being targeted, no-one will help you, people are sheep, and everyone is evil'. One of them outright says to make the Hunters irrelevant, which I suppose is pretty honest to the intentions of the WoD. I have some advice for GMs: If you're writing a game about how your PCs are completely irrelevant and nothing they do actually matters at all, you have fucked up. Especially if your plot is 'Look! An exciting and dangerous new development as a hitherto unknown element enters the setting (The Hunters)! Annnnd back to your regularly scheduled demigods, those guys were meaningless forever.' Maybe if the Hunters don't mean shit, don't write a game about playing them.

Seriously, even the 'it looks like we can win!' tone is written as 'Until you learn anything about the world, and how pointless your struggle truly is'.

Anyway, we also get a bunch of Hunter Groups in the Appendix, because of course we do, and surprise surprise, they're all secretly evil and twisted murderers or completely controlled by the enemy already. But they're also all already big organizations with lots of members and money and their own cliques and names and stuff and I'm not gonna bother with them. Suffice to say those Ashwood Abbey guys or whatever in nHunter come from this book, basically; they're not really new, they're a repurposing of one of the original Hunter groups. You also get more reiterations of how the cops can find you and your gun very easily and the cops are all in the enemy's pocket, so don't actually have exciting gunfights or anything because the enemy rules the world. Thanks, game.

There's more I could go into, but I want to leave you with the Epilogue and a reminder that Grabowski was a major author on this book, and that Exalted was coming out 2 years after this. It details an ancient scroll written in what look to be the secret Hunter runes, but with extra runes that the author was able to get translated in part by an expert in Hong Kong. They talk of an ancient golden age of pre-history, and terrible demons and monsters, and of great heroes empowered by the divine to fight them. Exalted people, you could say. And how this all seems to be the return of those Exalted ones from the ancient past, and good God, what ARE Hunters?

Yep. Hunters were originally supposed to be modern Exalted, something so dumb even WW dropped it when they dropped the whole 'maybe Exalted is the prehistory of the WoD', as far as I know.

As a side note, I should note Hunter doesn't really have a 'primary author' listed and has 15 credited authors and 10 different designers. Suddenly a lot of shit makes sense, doesn't it?

Next Time: Assessing The Hunt

Ending the Hunt

posted by Night10194 Original SA post

Hunter: The Reckoning

Ending the Hunt

Hunter is a bad game. A game with mechanics that can't do what they need to do to do the things it needs to accomplish to tell the story it's trying to tell. But beyond that, it's marred by having no idea what story it's trying to tell in the first place, which is part of why the mechanics never had a chance. Hunter was a lot of fun to examine and re-read because it's a big 'ole showcase of all the weird pathologies of the old World of Darkness. It's a game about how you'll finally rise up and bring Reckoning to the monsters! But you can only do it because you have magic powers! Except your magic powers suck! The book can't decide if you're brutal bullies pushing around poor innocent monsters or if you're righteous (but extremely doomed) heroes, and it's all done to a bunch of tone-breaking art of gothic action heroes just kicking seven flavors of shit out of the undead, strewn with cool guns, hand to hand combat, and lots of trendy looking action hero clothing with Hunter sigils on it.

Hunter is a game that suffers a lot from the total unwillingness to make a game about protagonists. It also suffers from an over-reliance on misery and a lack of a clear theme of any kind. It betrays its own pitch with almost every mechanic and an awful lot of its fluff. At least Call of Cthulhu gives you the dignity of treating your dead pile of Investigators as noble sacrifices who followed one another's notes until finally someone managed to put the Ancient One back to sleep and let the world stumble on a little longer. Hunter doesn't even give the PCs the dignity of respecting their actions. Everything is slathered in that kind of cheap, 'above it all' cynicism I'm sure we all know too well from the 90s. Everyone is evil and dark and grim, and the people you're fighting to protect are ignorant sheep who sell you out to the monsters and who aren't much of anything but props or fridge-filler to make your character more nihilist and grim. Make no mistake, 'the masses are props' and 'kill your PCs families to show you're serious' are from the same cheap, dumb writing tricks as the woman in the fridge.

And the people who write that kind of stuff wonder how they keep ending up with grim loners who have no dependents as their PCs.

One of the things I keep encountering when I look at old White Wolf's work is this initial thought of 'Their pitches are so good, there's a solid idea at the center!', but I think after reading Hunter that's really not true. It's true; the pitches are good. But if you bungle the pitch almost every goddamn time, maybe you're just a shitty writer. People can come up with cool pitches and evocative high concepts all day; if every time you go to fill them in past that point you end up with Bookworm55's whining or 'actually everything about you is irrelevant' or 'we believe Werewolf is about ecofacism' or whatever the fuck the 'Year of the Lotus' was supposed to be maybe you're just bad writers who can't do more than generate high concepts. High concepts and elevator pitches are important, but they're the easy part of writing.

Let's examine some hypotheticals here: Say Hunter was the game the art sells it as. Would that be a fun game? Playing a bunch of cathartic gothic action heroes who were given the awesome powers of ancient, legendary heroes so they can rise up from being ordinary people and kick the shit out of monsters? Hell, let's go further and say you really went with the Exalted/Scion-like angle and someone was like 'Hey the Antediluvians are waking and that's brought the spirits of heroes of antiquity back to the world to find worthy humans with attitude to kick the shit out of monsters', and then you had to manage your humanity and grounding and emotional resonance against your new massive heroic hubris while killing devils with your trenchcoat and katana because this is the 90s. That would be rad! You could even make a big deal out of how you weren't some great shitkicker before this, you were just a nanny who got between a werewolf and a kid and Scathatch was like 'Hey that lady's got moxie, I like her' and now you're an epic killer of horrors. Embrace the oWoD gonzo gothic superhero weirdness and you'd probably end up with a fun game!

But the game can't do that, because it's really insecure about that aspect of its setting. See, that sounds like something a boring roll-player would play, and not a deep story about grit and grime and sorrow. Never mind that the urge to make that game is clearly already within Hunter from the art direction and the loving descriptions of awesome magic powers. Never mind the way the game can't help but keep revealing it doesn't think of anyone not touched by the supernatural as a full person because it's locked up in edgy 'sheeple' stuff. The game doesn't want to admit that it's really enamored of magic powers and cool, epic angelic intervention and action, so it tries to play it down even as it peeks through in the text.

That said, I don't think that's the main thing you could do with Hunter's pitch; it's just the one that would fit the 'demigod around every corner' feel of the oWoD best and one of the two concepts Hunter is clearly tempted to be but can't decide on. The other? You'd need to put in careful thought about how to make a game about assassination, confrontation, and revolution. I'd have loved a game where they really embraced that every oWoD game doesn't really share the same settings with the others; other splats work differently outside of their home splat most of the time. It'd be fine to write Hunter in a way where the only powers Hunters actually need (magic ones, anyway) are the Second Sight and anti-mind-control Conviction powers. Set up a game where your advantage is surprise, and your enemies don't know you're coming. Sure, that Methuselah is a super-plotter who has centuries of experience and all in their own game line. But this is the game about Hunters, about humans who are no longer victims and won't accept you victimizing anyone else. You can easily shift the perspective just a bit to say the Methuselah's scheming and plotting powers are directed at their own kind, and they've spent centuries in a world their ilk rule where they don't have to watch out for a human seeing through the casual illusions, lies, and mind-tricks. You could make Edges into something you build up by preparing and planning and fighting minor minions and henchmen, then you pop them for 'powers' during an actual confrontation because you're doing the thing Blades in the Dark does where you do 'they're trying to move super-fast again; here's the trap we prepared earlier just in case' as your 'special powers'.

But that's not really what White Wolf was gunning for either, though it's closer to the text of Hunter. Because as someone said upthread, the idea that maybe the vampire and the PCs don't all need to be working on the same stat system was as alien to their design sensibilities as the idea that maybe giving people super high init and 6 more turns a turn was a bad idea. Because WW wasn't thinking about balance, and actively didn't think of rules as part of the story. Similarly, the general tenor of oWoD was such that if you didn't have soul lasers at minimum, who really cares? There just wasn't space for a game about driven mortal hunters in the space White Wolf wrote in. They could say there were very few vampires in official stats as often as they wanted; the impression you got reading their work was that every street corner had another goddamn demigod of one flavor or another on it. Because those are generally the main characters they actually talked about. Which isn't crazy; your game's about sexy vampires, of course you're going to focus on sexy vampire politics and social dynamics in the sexy vampire game. It just starts to get a little crowded after the 6th X: The Y tells you about how Z has secretly ruled the world in 90s conspiracy theory glory for the 11th time.

So in the end, Hunter is just a sad mess. It's a shame, too, because the oWoD really does make a great adversary; it's full of stuff that could use a shotgun to the face. But beyond its strong pitch, it has no confidence in itself, no vision, and no mechanical design that can pull off any of the stories it can't decide it wants to be. While the idea of an uprising and a Reckoning by the forgotten and the weak is really appealing, White Wolf just didn't know how to pull it off, or if it even wanted to pull it off. After all, for every 'you are the righteous and doomed hero who stands against the night' there was another 'but maybe the monster is just sad', and I think that was easier for them to fall into specifically because only the Magicmen had actual value and so it was easy for a writer to lose track of the personhood of 'normals'. And so it goes on the giant pile of 'WW games with a strong pitch that couldn't live up to it in the least'.

The End