Posted on May 17, 2010 by spikexan
Available at RPGNow.com
It’s a big year for Supernatural. The tv show has been renewed for an unexpected sixth season (the original story arc only called for five), they are flirting with the GhostFacers webisode series, novel tie-ins are seeing print, and the rpg license remains strong. The newest addition to the line, Supernatural: Guide to the Hunted, is one of those supplements players need to complete their series. The corebook possesses plenty of material for game masters; however, this book adds flavor for those wanting to run something straight from the television series. I’ll get back to this later in the review.
The layout and artwork to this book understandably follows the format of the corebook, which is a clever look matching John Winchester’s monster bible. The fake Post-It notes, sketches, photos, and scribbled notes make for an eye-catching read. There are times the look may distract readers into reading bits out of order, but, in the case of this book’s direction, that’s okay. Nobody ever said a Hunter’s monster bible would be an easy read.
The majority of the book rests on the descriptions of various monsters, demons, angels, and Other Thing Under Your Bed. New Assets and Complications are in the book, but are seeded midst the creatures descriptions. Since the book addresses “playing monsters fighting monsters,” this created a bit of jumping around. For someone familiar with the book, it’s probably not an issue. For a handful of friends looking to make some characters for a pick-up game (because Supernatural is an excellent choice for such a game), it’s a little user-unfriendly.
The creatures receive much better descriptions in this supplement than the brief collection in the corebook. In fact, the authors seem to catch damn near everything through the end of the fourth season (and perhaps a bit into Season Five). There are lots of photos from the show to help jar memories for some of the forgettable monsters; however, the writing paints pretty meaningful pictures.
While the vast majority of the book is a “monster book,” roughly twenty pages gets devoted to curses, hexes, mystical illnesses, and the other “problems” the Winchesters had to face that didn’t fall into the broad monster category (such as the lovely Bela Talbot). The final fifteen pages work to explain how to create your own monsters and run campaigns where the Hunters are also monsters. For me this last chapter could have been larger and would have made the book more exciting for me. It’s a lovely book that works not only as a gaming tool, but also a terrific armchair guide to the monsters of the series. For me, it may work a little bit better as the latter than the former. Here is why:
I don’t want to run games where the players take on the Winchesters’ cast-offs. It’s the bane of licensed material. How do I run a musical episode like on Buffy? What if I turned my entire cast into puppets like on Angel? What if I run a game where two sisters hunt the supernatural while trying to avenge their dead parents? All of these make for excellent gaming material, but still ring a little bit hollow on the originality side (yeah . . . I know “nothing original under the sun”). To the authors credit, they do address this concern with a sidebar on page 120 “Filing off the Serial Numbers.” Also, I had the pleasure of taking part in Floyd C. Wesel’s (one of the authors) GenCon sessions in 2008. There is a mine of originality waiting for players of
this game; however, because of the link to the tv show, they have to work for it.
As far as “monster books” go, Guide to the Hunted wins marks in design and detail, but doesn’t engage the reader as well as some of White Wolf’s Wicked Dead or Pelgrane Press’ Book of Unremitting Horror. At the least, a small campaign (with an original nasty or remix of an existing nasty) would have strengthened the book. I won’t rule out the strong possibility that licensing tied the authors’ collective hands behind their back. There were doubtlessly things they could and could not do with the material at hand. My scores for Guide to the Hunted are:
Layout: Five out of Five Dice (smart look)
Artwork: Four out of Five Dice (I love the single page angelic pieces)
Writing: Four out of Five Dice (Great writing despite licensing red tape)
Overall: Four out of Five Dice (A must-have for fans of the line)
Fans of the Supernatural RPG
Fans of the Supernatural tv Series
Urban Fantasy fans
Contemporary Horror fans
Not So Great For:
Those wanting “new” monsters for a game campaign
Review by Todd Cash