A Game Per Year: Hunter: The Reckoning (Bonus 2022)

I started to feel that I didn’t know roleplaying games well enough so I came up with the plan to read a roleplaying game corebook for every year they have been published. Selection criteria is whatever I find interesting.

The cover of Hunter: The Reckoning

Hunter: The Reckoning is the second World of Darkness game to get a new edition since the new 5th edition era started with Vampire: The Masquerade in 2018. The game hasn’t been officially released yet but the PDF has gone out to those who pre-ordered.

Hunter differs from many of the other World of Darkness games in that it’s core idea is not to play the monster. Instead, you try to hunt and kill the monster. There’s a fundamental shift from being to doing. In Vampire or Werewolf, there’s fun in getting to be a vampire or a werewolf. In Hunter, the point is the hunt and the Hunter is just someone who hunts.

The game takes a different approach to its subject than the original 1999 edition. When Hunter first appeared, the Hunters were imbued with superpowers by mysteriously angel-like beings. Now, that angle has been discarded and the Hunters are essentially normal people, albeit with unusually strong drives for doing what they do. Game mechanically, they have abilities that increase player options, but in the fiction they’re humans fighting against monsters.

The book has a lean, effective writing style reminiscent of indie games that makes it approachable and readable. It doesn’t spend a lot of time worldbuilding, instead focusing on the core action flow: Investigate, plan, kill. This is another departure from other World of Darkness games: The focus is on the mission, not on the social world the player characters inhabit.

Many of the example monsters and organizations are in the Philippines. They’re also some of the book’s strongest and most evocative material, approachable in their design yet new because the Philippines haven’t historically been overexposed in the world of roleplaying games.

The writing also often displays an anticapitalist, antifascist ethos that’s definitely to its advantage. As antagonists, vampires in particular have potential for symbolizing and characterizing a lot of the systemic ills that plague our societies today.

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