A Review of The New Hunter The Reckoning

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The modern World of Darkness is not very concerned with tradition. It blew up much of the setting of Vampire: The Masquerade to redefine it for a modern age. It remixed the Clans to better fit some of these newer ideas, such as the death-obsessed Hecata. It also surprised many fans when it announced that the second game in the reborn setting would be Hunter: The Reckoning. When the original was released in 1999, it caused a stir because the game focused on hunters, called the Imbued, who were given powers to fight back against the menagerie of creatures in the classic World of Darkness. This edition, despite the title and the blaze orange color scheme, opts for a more low key approach. Renegade Game Studios sent a copy of the new book for me to review. Does Hunter hit the mark? Let’s play to find out.

Hunter: The Reckoning, from designers Justin Achilli, Daniel Braga, Johnathan Byerly, Edward Austin Hall, Karim Muammar, Mario Ortegón, Pam Punzalan, and Erin Roberts, casts players as normal humans that have seen the truth about the World of Darkness and can’t go back to ignoring that there are monsters out there. Each character chooses a Drive to illustrate why they have taken up the hunt, such as classics like Vengeance or Atonement, or more complex ones like Greed or Envy. Drive factors into the bonus dice system for this game. Hunters can access Desperation dice based on their character choices. These dice come with a risk. They can cause an Overreach which can ratchet up the tension by increasing Danger or they can cause a character to Despair because they feel the cost of being on the hunt. Hunters can’t use Desperation Dice while in Despair. Acting in accordance with their Drive brings the hunter out of this condition.

The Desperation mechanic is an interesting mash up of V5’s Hunger mechanic and the stress dice from ALIEN. It exists as kind of a reflection to the Danger rating, which feels a little like the countdown clocks seen in games like Tales From The Loop or Monster of the Week. While I like the concept of both, they feel a little unfinished. I wanted more guidance on how to use Danger to raise the stakes in a game and when to give the players access to more Desperation. When games have a “doom” mechanic like this, I want there to be specific consequences beyond “the descriptions get spookier”. I wouldn’t mind something like the Doom Pool from Marvel Heroic or the light/dark tokens from Chill where the ST can spend points for a specific thing to happen, leaving the players to sweat out the consequences until the reveal.

Characters also choose one of five Creeds to frame how they hunt, be it the classic run and gun of the Martial Creed to the more Ghostbuster-y scientific capitalism of the Entrepreneurial Creed. Unlike the Clans or other supernatural counterparts, these essential elements aren’t overly tied to specific abilities or in-universe social collectives. There are recommended edges for each, but anyone can take a power and narratively flavor it to their liking. I like the change away from specific splats to something broader but I also see a lot of folks already lamenting the loss of the Imbued storyline.

The focus of this edition is on the cell, which gives the game a similar feeling to the early seasons of the long-lived Supernatural TV show. The crew stumbles onto something weird, figures out what it is, how to kill it, and how to survive till dawn when everyone rides out of town. These hunters aren’t the slick techno killers of the Second Inquisition, nor are they part of the compacts of Hunter: The Vigil. This version of Hunter: The Reckoning really leans into the punk half of the Gothic-Punk setting. It’s you and your cell versus the whole World of Darkness. I think that makes it stand out against other games in this series.

These hunters only have each other and, like their V5 siblings, Touchstones that give them something to protect. Touchstones have a heavier role in this game as their loss can trigger a semi-permanent Despair until the Hunter finds a new person for which to fight. Touchstones are an underserved mechanic in World of Darkness and I hope each new game uses them in an interesting way.

Fans hoping for some clues on how the newest World of Darkness will change the other supernatural creatures won’t find many clues in the monster section. There are broad write ups for creatures that fit the Big Five and they are purposely written without many specifics. There’s also a big section devoted to hunter organizations, including a few returning ones like the Arcanum and Orpheus, Inc. I like that the book doesn't assume the reader already knows this stuff, but I was also hoping for some more straight up weird monsters that didn’t fit anywhere. Until such time as they release a deeper monster book, keeping around Horror Recognition Guide or The Book of Unremitting Horror seems like a good idea to really keep players on their toes.

Hunter: The Reckoning is a solid entry into the monster hunting genre for tables that want that desperate feeling of being alone in the dark.
 
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Rob Wieland

Rob Wieland


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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Yeah but in the original book I got the real sense that the Hunters didn't like the other supernaturals because they were supernatural, when they themselves were supernatural. It was just weird. Also the other games have a classic literature archetype they followed, where Hunter was this separate thing that didn't have a good strong "this is basically (insert media X) the game." I dunno, at the time, for me, monster hunters were the crew of light from Dracula, normal people fighting against the things that prey upon humanity in the night. But what I got was basically the Human/Angel; the Asskickening. It was just a weird fit that I never got. And on top of that the back story from them was also just plan strange. The Imbued were given powers by some sympathetic angels that felt bad for humanity after god abandoned creation. I dunno, it just never worked for me. nWod Hunter was one of the few games in that line that was straight superior for me than the original incarnation.
I guess I just can’t see what is incongruent about any of that.

They became supernatural to be able to face supernatural monsters. Okay, makes sense.

Angelic beings disagreed with god’s abandonment of creation and chose champions to hunt the enemy. Okay, makes sense.

There just isn’t anything I’m seeing as weird in any of that. To each their own, I just wondered if I had missed soemthing when I read the old books, which was long ago, but it doesn’t seem like I did. I think it’s maybe less any incongruency, and just a case of not matching your preferences.
 

robowieland

Adventurer
Also: I'm so glad they legit straight up changed the original cover to the current one. Of the 5th Edition WoD games, H5 is probably my second favorite right after V5's cover.

Seriously, the original H5 cover was terrible.

Ironically, it's now the back cover of the book and has been heavily photoshopped.
 


MGibster

Legend
Yeah but in the original book I got the real sense that the Hunters didn't like the other supernaturals because they were supernatural, when they themselves were supernatural. It was just weird.
It's been a while since I read the original book, but from what I remember, my impression was that the Hunters disliked other supernaturals because they were preying on humans. When most of the imbued first became aware of the supernatural, it was typically within the context of learning some monstrous entity was harming someone.
 

Weiley31

Legend
I do remember there WAS a part in the xbox game, Hunter the Reckoning: Redeemer, where the main Imbued cast joined forces with a Garou pack in order to fight against the game's villain in like one of the stages.

It's been such a while. It probably was more of a "The enemy of my enemy is my friend" type deal. But it was kinda possible for alliances to happen.
 

Ethawyn

Explorer
Other than a couple of (to me) neat sounding mechanics, I'm just really struggling to see what sets this apart from Hunter: the Vigil (which just had it's second edition come out last year). Yes, Vigil has Compacts and Conspiracies, but the default level is the Cell, and Hunter too is focused on drives and the costs of the hunt.

I'm not saying multiple games can't do these things in different but uniquely interesting ways, it just seems weird under branches of the same original brand and system.
 

Jer

Legend
Supporter
Other than a couple of (to me) neat sounding mechanics, I'm just really struggling to see what sets this apart from Hunter: the Vigil (which just had it's second edition come out last year).
Are you sure it was last year? I thought it was earlier this year. As in I thought it came out just a few months ago.

I'm not saying multiple games can't do these things in different but uniquely interesting ways, it just seems weird under branches of the same original brand and system.
It's such a weird artifact of the White Wolf licensing that Onyx Path and Renegade are both making World of Darkness games now. I'm positive that it's really confusing to folks who aren't "in the know" about it. And if Paradox knew they were going to be releasing a new Hunter game through Renegade this year, why did they allow Onyx Path to publish theirs also this year?
 

Other than a couple of (to me) neat sounding mechanics, I'm just really struggling to see what sets this apart from Hunter: the Vigil (which just had it's second edition come out last year). Yes, Vigil has Compacts and Conspiracies, but the default level is the Cell, and Hunter too is focused on drives and the costs of the hunt.

I'm not saying multiple games can't do these things in different but uniquely interesting ways, it just seems weird under branches of the same original brand and system.

IIRC, I remember reading an interview with one of the developers of HtR V5, and they mentioned that they wanted to bring the game back to the street level. Also, the Imbued were actually pawns of major Demons (read Time of Judgement), so they wanted to untie the powers of the Imbued from Hunters and just make them normal, but driven, humans. Now, that's not to say that there won't be a supplement later on that discusses the Imbued, but I personally prefer this version.

My first session running this will be tonight.
 

Ethawyn

Explorer
IIRC, I remember reading an interview with one of the developers of HtR V5, and they mentioned that they wanted to bring the game back to the street level. Also, the Imbued were actually pawns of major Demons (read Time of Judgement), so they wanted to untie the powers of the Imbued from Hunters and just make them normal, but driven, humans. Now, that's not to say that there won't be a supplement later on that discusses the Imbued, but I personally prefer this version.

My first session running this will be tonight.
I prefer the street level too, or at the very most minor powers like you see in Vigil's Conspiracies, but then I always preferred Vigil to Reckoning. My question is more the niche the two games now occupy.
 

Ethawyn

Explorer
Are you sure it was last year? I thought it was earlier this year. As in I thought it came out just a few months ago.
You may be right. I backed the Kickstarter, seems like ages ago (although I'm sure it wasn't actually that long). I thought I got the PDF last year and the hardback is coming out this year.

It's such a weird artifact of the White Wolf licensing that Onyx Path and Renegade are both making World of Darkness games now. I'm positive that it's really confusing to folks who aren't "in the know" about it. And if Paradox knew they were going to be releasing a new Hunter game through Renegade this year, why did they allow Onyx Path to publish theirs also this year?

It's absolutely confusing for people not in the know. I've had conversations with people where I've tried to explain the difference between World of Darkness and Chronicles of Darkness and they still walk away confused.

But at least before with Hunter I was able to say, "So, Hunter: the Reckoning was about mortals being given powerful supernatural abilities so they could be anti-monster superheroes, more or less, whereas Hunter: the Vigil is about scrappy mortals who at most have a couple of neat magical tricks up their sleeve to fight the monsters." Now, it's, what? "Oh so Vigil is about scrappy mortals who at most have a couple of neat magical tricks up their sleeve fighting monsters and Reckoning is about scrappy mortals who don't even have a couple of neat magical tricks up their sleeve."
 

Ethawyn

Explorer
All that said, I'd love to see a thorough breakdown of the differences between Vigil and Reckoning by someone who knows both (and doesn't have an axe to grind either way).
 

All that said, I'd love to see a thorough breakdown of the differences between Vigil and Reckoning by someone who knows both (and doesn't have an axe to grind either way).

Beyond the mechanics, both have totally different lore. Old World of Darkness vs New World of Darkness/Chronicles of Darkness vs the lore changes for V5 and H5 and future core book updates to the new rules/lore.
 

Ethawyn

Explorer
Beyond the mechanics, both have totally different lore. Old World of Darkness vs New World of Darkness/Chronicles of Darkness vs the lore changes for V5 and H5 and future core book updates to the new rules/lore.
True, but I'm still interested in how the mechanics and themes differ, since Vigil at least can serve as a perfectly good horror toolkit.
 

Wicht

Hero
For those of us who haven't been involved in the WoD since about the 2nd edition of the original books and the OWoD, what exactly is the lore of the NWoD and which Hunter book is which?
 

Ethawyn

Explorer
For those of us who haven't been involved in the WoD since about the 2nd edition of the original books and the OWoD, what exactly is the lore of the NWoD and which Hunter book is which?

So this is rather confusing, but I'll do my best to explain.

Back in the early aughts, White Wolf nuked the entire World of Darkness line with a big world ending metaplot event and then launched the "New World of Darkness." The focus was more on building a horror toolkit than big world building, although it never went fully in the direction of being just a horror toolkit. Most of the big old World of Darkness games like Vampire: The Masquerade and Werewolf: The Apocalypse got nWoD versions, some of which, like Vampire: The Requieum, were basically the oWoD version streamlined and stripped of metaplot, while others, like Werewolf: The Forsaken were complete reboots that totally remixed the building blocks of the original (think of the relationship between the 70s Battlestar Galactics and the 2000's reboot). The base rule system was also retooled and each of the splats were more closely tied to the same rule system than oWoD was (to the point of sharing a core "Mortals" rulebook).

Then in 2013, nWoD started getting 2nd Edition books put out by Onyx Path Publishing licensing from Paradox (who now owned White Wolf). They renamed the whole line Chronicles of Darkness and this was retroactively used for nWoD too. The reason for this is because they also started putting out 20th Anniversary versions of old World of Darkness books through Kickstarter, and Paradox eventually put out a 5th Edition of oWoD Vampire: The Masquerade designed by Ken Hite. V5 borrowed some stuff from the Chronicles of Darkness version of Vampire, changed the world ending events that had destroyed the oWoD into not world ending events (I'm a bit vague on this part tbh) and so now the world of oWoD exists again with some new lore alongside Chronicles of Darkness, both producing new books. V5 has had a bit of a tortured development cycle, starting in house with rebooted White Wolf under Paradox, moving to Modiphius, and then moving again to Hunters Entertainment. Hunters has since announced a "5th edition" of Werewolf: The Apocalypse and the newly released Hunter: The Reckoning, both using V5's version of White Wolf's rule system as a base.

So the short answer might be that oWoD is based on metaplot and big world lore, and CoD is a toolkit with a more limited default setting, but that's only true in the broad strokes, and CoD has itself gotten more lore heavy as it's gone along. Still, the assumption for CoD is that you can take or leave whatever elements you want. So, for example, there's Vampire: The Requiem and Werewolf: the Forsaken. If you run WtF, it's up to you whether or not the vampires of VtR exist in your world.

In terms of Hunter. The original Hunter: The Reckoning involved mortals who were imbued with supernatural powers to fight monsters. The new version is just normies fighting monsters, but very much positioned within the same world as Vampire: The Masquerade, etc. Hunter: the Vigil is also mortals fighting monsters, but there's less of a default world. There are also a number of factions created for HtV of various levels of power that players can be part of, which can change the tone a lot. The 2nd Edition also has a suggested campaign at the back called the Slasher Chronicle where mildly supernatural serial killers ala Mike Meyers are cropping up all over the place in greater and greater numbers.
 

robowieland

Adventurer
One of the differences between Reckoning and Vigil is that the hunter orgs in H5 are portrayed as antagonists. Yes, monsters are scary, but so is Second Inquisition. There's kind of that private eye-police tension there where the PCs get rousted by the Arcanum for busting up a sorcerer's nest or interfering with an Orpheus Group contract.

At best, they see cells as a farm team to recruit from but more often then not they hate cells for getting in their way or use them as pawns to draw out monsters. Vigil it always felt like you could eventually level up and join one of the orgs but here there's a feeling of "why would I want to? They'll just screw us over at some point anyway."
 
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