By White Wolf, £15.99
Well, we waited all year for the culmination of the year of the reckoning, and here it is. Hunter: The Reckoning is the inverse of all White-Wolf's other World of Darkness books. Instead of playing monsters, you hunt them. So far, so easy. It's about normal people who have become forced by some strange experiences to come to terms with the existence of supernaturals who manipulate the world, and now want to deal with it. It's not Hunter's Hunted version 2, it's something very different. In a way that's a shame, as the hunters Hunted ws one of the best series that WW produced.
First impressions of Hunter are good. You get a big hefty book for your money, and it was relatively cheap when I purchased it. The cover is all flames and bullets, which sets you in mind of a game involving lots of explosions and death. Inside the cover are dawbed a number of strange symbols, more on these later, and the back cover proclaims that it is time to '"Take Back the Night". A quick flick through and the illustrations throughout look the standard White Wolf mix of exceptional and dire. The illustrations seem to not bear too much relation to the text, as they often seem to be over the top action pics, when the game is about normal people.
The background of the game is introduced through the standard short stories and flavour text, here taking the form of a website, hunter-net.org. The excerpts from the website set up the mood nicely and explain the basics. I tend to find people using websites in published games mildly annoying, but most of this was fun to read. You play normal people who received visitations from unknown forces called Heralds, who somehow altered your perceptions and let you see the truth about the World of Darkness. You get to wander through the world, slowly discovering more about the monsters who haunt the night and trying to stop them.
Unsurprisingly we get several character classes, oh sorry, Creeds, of hunter. Each one of these has a different attitude to the supernatural. Some are forgiving, others vengeful. Some are researchers, some are redeemers. A nice mix of ideologies, which give you an idea of what you might play. One nice thing is that you are encouraged not to play gun totting psychos, the emphasis is definitely on normal people rather than supermen. An idea which won't be popular with the gun bunnies, but which encourages a different style of play. Your hunters aren't going to be incredibly competent, but they feel morally obliged to do what they do.
Character creation is fairly standard for White-Wolf, Attributes, Abilities, Advantages, willpower and defining virtues. Hunters get lower stats than supernaturals, but better freebies, so you get lots of freedom to express your concept via points. To aid your hunters in their fight you get an array of edges, like disciplines in Vampire or Gifts in Werewolf, these are powers which set your hunter apart from normal people, and give them a fighting chance. These fall into various categories, some are the standard does more damage, others are rather nicely thought out. For example, your character could possess a power which allows it to ask a a question of a supernatural, which then forces it to confront what it has done, neat.
Running preludes in Hunter looks like being a great deal of fun, the player has to roleplay a person who is being freaked out by strange voices which tell it that something is wrong, and by signs which change their words from "Ahead Only" to "You alone see" or similar. The character has to go through a violent awakening as to what the world is like, and a twisted ref could have a great deal of fun planning these. Hunters can also see and interpret a series of strange symbols, which they can use to leave messages for each other. Leading to many nice, follow on where the last lot went missing, story ideas.
The storytellers section gives some nice advice on how to run the game, and what power level it should be run at and how to develope characters and keep them interested in the hunt. There's also a bestiary that nicely simplifies all of the powers from Werewolf, Vampire, et al into a quick reference for NPCs.
Hunter fits in quite well with the other books in the series, and there are some nice ideas in it. It manages to maintain the feel of the World of Darkness, while also making itself an obviously different game. One problem is that unlike the other games hunter doesn't have too much depth of background, as such hunters have only recently appeared, and so have no deeper history. What we get instead is the mystery of what caused the hunters to exist and why they feel compelled to fight the supernatural. This will make the sourcebooks different, I suppose, but I can't help feel that some deeper history would have added to the feel of the game. This lack of deeper history, tends to make hunters seem a bt like an artificial add on. Another thing that irked me was the way in which it relies a bit heavily on the other games, it doesn't really stand too well as an independent game. There's plenty of time for hunter to evolve it's background, but I can't help feeling a bit ripped off, at paying £20 for something with no real background of it's own.
Overall: Not exactly revolutionary, but with some quite nice ideas. It's a nice take on the World of Darkness, but it's hardly a vital purchase, I can see it sitting on the shelf, being pulled down whenever players and Ref want a bit of a change.