Categorized | RPGs

Witch Hunter: the Blessed and the Damned Review

Posted on April 7, 2010 by Megan

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    The Introduction opens with the comment that while there’s plenty been published about the Adversary, precious little has been produced – bar the core rules – to support Witch Hunters themselves. This book sets out to change all that, a tome designed to aid Witch Hunter characters, honing them into potent and effective forces for good. To put things in context, there’s a brief summary of the way things are – the war between the supernatural and the protectors of mankind, the Orders of Solomon and their operatives the Witch Hunters. A war now waged in secret, although once, in times of legend, more open.

    Chapter 1: The Orders of Solomon takes a look at some additional Orders which characters may prefer to the ones in the core rulebook. It begins with an analysis of what sets Witch Hunters apart from anyone else who enters the war against dark supernatural forces, the powers that they are granted and the ‘mark’ that grants instantaneous recognition of a fellow Witch Hunter being the most obvious. And then to the Orders, such as the Dream Walkers who are Native Americans who choose to remain amongst their tribes and work subtly and behind the scenes rather than risk being cast out, speaking to each other and to other Witch Hunters through dreams. The Order of the Rose and Cross has its origins in Germany, and bring arcane knowledge and skills to the fight. Then there is the fiercely independent (if rather feminist) Order of the Sainted Mothers. While the Mothers focus on the protection of children, the Seekers of Emet specialize in the protection of the Jewish community and in the search for relics lost in the destruction of the Second Temple. Notes cover how Witch Hunters of these new Orders think and conduct themselves, any special benefits or rituals they have and how they get along with other Witch Hunters of different traditions.

    Next, Chapter 2 looks at Backgrounds, launching straight into a series of descriptions of new backgrounds available to Witch Hunters and the specific abilities that they confer. All serve to give depth to your character and an idea of what he did before he took up Witch Hunting. This is followed by Chapter 3: Skills and Talents which again without further ado lists the new ones available for you to choose. A wide range they are too, from fighting abilities and professional skills to talent at various rituals and even the ability to cook a gourmet dinner!

    Chapter 4: The Circles of Sorcery looks at the different traditions followed and naturally provides lots of rites for adepts of each to study and employ. For those who like solid background the description of each ritual not only explains the effects but a bit about how it was originally invented and by whom. New traditions presented here are Alchemy, Kabbalah and Voodoo; while there are also new rites for traditions described in the core rulebook.

    Those of a more physical bent are not left out, as Chapter 5: Fighting Traditions explores additional fighting styles to those in the core rulebook, enabling characters to develop their fighting skills in various new directions. So whither flashy moves with a cloak or brutal blows with a 2-handed greatsword catch your fancy, there are new techniques to master here. There are also wholly-new combat traditions to study, such as Capoeira (yes, that’s a real one, I used to amuse the faculty lounge by practicing with the dance teacher who’d also studied it!), the Devil’s Wager, a style based on the use of whips, flails and chains and a style based on the moves of a matador during a bullfight. Native Americans prefer a more holistic approach, seeing combat as just one of the things you do along with tracking, hunting, gathering and ritual – all parts of normal daily life, done when necessary. This does not prevent them from learning specific talents – even if they do not view them in the same way as a practitioner of a Western sword style might view learning a new maneuver.

    Chapter 6: Annapolis-Royale describes a settlement in the Acadia colony, complete with history and legends and notable local personalities. Visits can be pleasant and welcoming – but there is more to this community than meets the eye. While it is not written as an adventure, Witch Hunters calling here while about their travels will find plenty to investigate and evil to vanquish.

    Chapter 7 deals with Indian Tribes of the Eastern New World, mentioning how surprised Western explorers were to discover that the New World was by no means empty! The culture and society of Native Americans are explored, in particular the Haudenosaunee, a confederation of tribes that to Western eyes classes as a nation. There’s a wealth of material here on many tribes, fruitful resources whether your characters are Westerners trying to figure them out or Native Americans seeking a sound background in which to base themselves. Finally, Chapter 8: New Relics presents a collection of relics of various levels which may feature in your games.

    Overall this is a thoughtful addition to the game system, providing well-considered additions to any Witch Hunter character’s background, skills and knowledge. I’m not quite sure as to the purpose of Annapolis-Royal: considerable work would be needed to run a visit as an adventure, and this book is supposed to be player-friendly so GMs may feel that they’d know too much about the place. Otherwise the depth and traditional feel is excellent and should provide new and existing Witch Hunter characters with plenty to consider.

    Review by Megan Robertson

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