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.