Let’s go back to 1999 when many thought the world was going to end.
Y2K. And all that.
The Matrix was the movie everybody saw, followed by the Star Wars: the Phantom Menace. The TV show Millennium ended its third and final season, while The X-Files continued going strong. President Clinton went on trial after his impeachment. A van struck Stephen King while he was going for a walk.
Woodstock 99 ended in chaos, riots, and fire.
Meanwhile the folks at White Wolf studios cashed in on the zeitgeist by releasing Hunter: The Reckoning, where normal humans become spontaneously imbued with mystical powers to fight the monsters from the previous World of Darkness series.
I used to own a copy of Hunter: The Reckoning, but I sold it, along with my other World of Darkness books, years ago. (“None of my friends would play these games. So why keep them around, right?”).
I recently borrowed copy of the rule book from a friend. It wasn’t my intention. I saw it on his shelf (hard to miss with the bring orange cover) and started flipping through it. I was hooked all over again.
You play blue-collar characters. Joe Schmoes. You work in retail, on the dock, or might be a gopher at the office. You’re not a hero any sense of the word.
Then one day a veil lifts and a message comes from on high.
IT DOES NOT LIVE
Now you can see the walking dead, ghosts, vampires, and are imbued with mystical powers to fight them.
INHERIT THE EARTH
Yet most everybody around you is oblivious to the monsters among them.
What are you going to do now?
According to the stories in the first two chapters of the rulebook, you probably won’t live long. Yeah, the first two chapters of the rulebook are stories, told in the first person. Chapter 1 is a series of journal entries. Chapter 2 is an long chat-room/email message for those newly imbued.
Indeed, unless you count character creation, you don’t see any rule system explanations until Chapter 6.
That’s how White Wolf wrote its rule books. Story first, rules later. The game designers understood, story drives the game forward, not game mechanics. It’s the underlying reason why people play RPGs, or games in general.
D&D may tout Appendix N, but The World of Darkness came from completely different, and more literary (dare I use the term) sources. When I first came across books like Vampire: The Masquerade, I wasn’t quite certain what to do or how to run a such a free-form game. My mind was in D&D mode, so to speak.
Also I wasn’t comfortable playing a game where players were vampires, werewolves, and the like. Project Twilight was more my style, but I wanted to get away from the government agent versus supernatural. As I recall, The Hunters Hunted seemed incomplete, for some reason. I remember not being sure what to do with it.
Hunter: The Reckoning, however, translated well to my D&D infused brain. Okay, these are character imbued with special powers to fight the forces of darkness. I can wrap my mind around that.
I never ran it though. D&D 3rd Edition was the next big thing right around the corner in the Year 2000 (provided the world survived the Millennium, of course). So I stuck with with the familiar.
Not that I didn’t take ideas from the game.
What if, for example, a paladin’s abilities function like those imbued in Hunter: The Reckoning? His power to Detect Evil can help him see the evil creatures around him, but at what cost to his body and spirit?
For example: the end of Chapter 2 ends with the narrator’s life ruined as he’s become magnet for ghosts seeking help.
Imagine a paladin like that.
Here’s the link to Part 2.