Hunters Hunted II
By Justin Achilli, Jason Andrew, Joshua Alan Doetsch, Martin Henley, Ryan Macklin, Matthew McFarland, Matthew Sanderson, Ree Soesbee, Eddy Webb, and Stew Wilson
2013, 182 pages
Hunters Hunted II, the fourth supplement for Vampire the Masquerade: 20th Anniversary Edition, explores how mortals fight back against the predations of vampires in the World of Darkness. These hunters aren’t Frank Castle, they aren’t super heroes, they aren’t trench coat wearing bad ass ex-Navy SEALs. The hunters of Hunters Hunted II are regular people, the passersby who saw a vampire attack and couldn’t forget it until finally they felt the need to strike back. But how does a regular man or woman fight against supernatural creatures that are stronger, faster, tougher and have access to a wide array of supernatural abilities?
Hunters Hunted II showcases the best and worst of the Storyteller system games. The introductory story sets the mood of fear, paranoia, and uncertainty. The first chapter is a first person story of the encounter between two hunters, one a rookie and the other a veteran. The veteran explains his understanding of vampires and other things that go bump in the night to the new hunter who incidentally is tied to a chair. This chapter, more than any other part of the book, is why I love Storyteller games and White Wolf/The Onyx Path games. The authors explain the setting, mood, and themes of a hunters game without needing to explicitly say those words. I was drawn into the world of the hunter, his/her experiences, losses, victories, and doubts, and this set the stage for the rest of the book.
With the focus of the game on ordinary people, the authors continually remind the reader that these people have families and friends. They have jobs and responsibilities. They aren’t the lone wolf out hunting vampires with a katana in one hand and a submachine gun in the other. Chapter II guides players through character creation. Beyond just creating a singular character, Hunters Hunted II emphasizes the need for players and Storyteller to work together to create characters that fit within the story being told. Storytellers and players will need a copy of Vampire the Masquerade 20th Anniversary Edition to be able to build characters, but Hunters Hunted II provides plenty of extra backgrounds and merits and flaws for character creation with new Merits like Poisonous Blood (it works like it sounds) to Flaws like Hemophiliac. New backgrounds such as Armory give Hunters the potential to have plenty of options available when they are gearing up to hunt vampires. Base of Operations, another new Background, is complex but functional. Players will split their points between three different categories: luxury, security, and size.
Chapter III introduces a system where hunters can gain extra dice on future rolls by planning their missions. The system is well thought out and I think that it’s a good idea, but it’s implemented poorly. The method for gaining planning dice such as studying information about the target or poking holes in the plan is clearly explained, but the uses of those dice needs to be highlighted better. They are buried in the text of the chapter. I haven’t run a hunters game, so I haven’t been able to test this system. So far I like the concept behind it, gaining extra dice in case bad things happen through planning, but I think it could have been presented more clearly perhaps with a table with each use of plan dice spelled out.
Hunters aren’t completely without supernatural abilities. Numina are included that give hunters some abilities beyond those of normal people. Hedge Magic which is a weak form of magic has two paths Curses which is extremely powerful because the curses reduce a target’s dice pool, and Healing which some groups could rely on too heavily because this one of the few ways mortals can heal faster than normal. Psychic Numina offer a variety of options including Astral Projection, Pyrokinesis, and Telekinesis. These are roughly equal to paths of Thaumaturgy from V20. The most interesting Psychic Numina is Cyber Kinesis which lets the user control machines without touching them. In a modern setting this could easily be overpowered, but the difficulty is high and the consequences could be severe if failed. Finally, what would a hunters book be without True Faith? As with prior editions Truth Faith is extremely powerful, just the first level allows a character holding a holy symbol to cause vampires to flee in terror. However, this ability cannot be upgraded through experience points; only the Storyteller can award additional points in the ability.
Chapter V is on Storytelling a Hunters game, but the information in this chapter is good for any kind of game. The emphasis is on theme and mood as with all good Storyteller games. However, my favorite part of this chapter is the addition of sidebars that provide story hooks for a particular genre of story whether that is the “Bravado and Bullets” genre of a John Woo influenced chronicle or the “Thriller” genre of Silence of the Lambs. This chapter also explains how to build a story with an opening hook, intermediary scene, confrontation, climax and aftermath. While this is a basic story structure, it will be endlessly useful to new Storytellers. Also included is a section on Game Structure that explains the main styles of games that could be run: Linear, One Shot, Open Ended, and Sandbox.
For those looking for information on organized hunters, Chapter VI offers a look at the three major groups that hunt vampires: The Society of Leopold (Catholic Vampire Hunters), The U.S. Government (Project Twilight), and the Arcanum (Occult Librarians). Each sects gets a complete write up explaining its goals, history and offering a new Numina that is specific to that group. Smaller groups are also discussed such as the Italian Mafia, Russian Mob, and even street level gangs. Only a small sample is given for each of these groups, but those who have the older books will be able to easily bring those groups into V20 games, and hopefully, The Onyx Path/White Wolf Games will release full books for each of the three main groups of hunters.
A section of templates are provided for players or Storytellers looking for idea for characters. However, none of these are “Vampire Hunters”, instead they are regular people reacting to extraordinary circumstances in a world of monsters. I am really happy about this focus on the mundane rather than showing guys in Oakley’s with bulging muscles and giant swords fighting vampires. My favorite templates are the Paranoid Surveyor who hunts through soon to be demolished dilapidated buildings to expose vampires to the sunlight and the Destitute Crusader who used improvised weapons to kill those who hunt the homeless. All of the templates offer well rounded characters that are perfect to play.
Overall, Hunters Hunted II is a great book. Every section of the book maintains the primary theme of a Vampire the Masquerade game: Personal Horror. Adding the Hunters Hunted theme of “victory with a cost” reinforces the terror of fighting supernatural creatures that can shrug off gunshot wounds and instantly heal from wounds that would kill a normal person. My only real complaint is that the Planning Dice system needs to be better explained so that it will be easier to implement during play. A simple chart or even bolding the words could solve that problem. To nitpick, I didn’t like the Merit Research Grant because it’s superfluous. Having a character with “College Professor” as a character concept and points in the Background Resources does exactly the same thing.
Despite one small complaint and one nitpicky complaint, I believe that Hunters Hunted II is the start of a long line of high quality supplements for Vampire the Masquerade 20th Anniversary Edition. The artwork is gorgeous with bright, clear full color images that invoke the mood of hunting monsters, and the text is well written and offers a great mix of mechanics and story. I couldn’t be happier with my purchase of Hunters Hunted II, and I am glad that I helped fund this book through Kickstarter. For gamers looking to test their skills, Hunters Hunted II will offer a chance to create and play well-rounded characters that struggle against the evils of the World of Darkness. Storytellers will be able to use the information in this book to create better NPC hunters, and the Storytelling chapter is a great resource for new Storytellers or Storytellers looking for more information on running a World of Darkness game.
Hunters Hunted II is currently available as a PDF from DriveThruRPG. In the future, a paper version will be available.