Vigilantly Seeking a Point

Hunter: the Vigil had some tricky precedent to tackle when it was released for the new World of Darkness line (now retitled Chronicles of Darkness). The original World of Darkness hunter-themed game, Hunter: the Reckoning might have had its advocates, but that didn’t stop it from being a big turn-off to a large number of people who just wanted a game that played off the principles originally established in the classic supplement The Hunters Hunted, with basically ordinary human characters called on to fight supernatural menaces. Instead, what they got was this weird thing where the titular hunters were more properly called the Imbued – folk who suddenly got voices in their heads and enhanced senses and other supernatural powers to enable them to go toe to toe with supernatural entities, effectively making Hunter: the Reckoning yet another World of Darkness game about people who thought they were ordinary normal humans but then had some sort of cosmic puberty/near-death experience which made them something special and different.

The thing is, you can kind of see how that happened. White Wolf had, from even their early days, boiled down their style of presenting an RPG book – especially a core rulebook – into a formula, a pattern set by the original Vampire: the Masquerade and refined over time but rarely if ever departed from, right down to the little “Theme” and “Mood” sections at the start of the book. Whilst Ron Edwards’ waffle about how White Wolf fans were brain damaged to the point that they couldn’t understand how to put together a story was obviously offensive hyperbole, one can certainly see how if your only creative hobby or engagement with storytelling consisted of World of Darkness games you would end up with a rather blinkered approach – and, more to the point, how whilst White Wolf wasn’t actually causing physiological brain damage to anybody through its working practices, you could make an argument that it was causing institutional brain damage to itself through its extremely formulaic approach.

In other words, whilst I don’t mean that any literal, actual harm came to anyone’s brain or their cognitive functioning, at the same time White Wolf’s publishing procedures, internal culture, assumptions about best practice and general approach may have meant that it ended up following its formula more than it needed to, falling a little too often into the trap of mangling a concept to better fit the formula rather than allowing itself to depart from the formula for the sake of delivering the concept in question. Occasionally it allowed itself the occasional major departure; for instance, Wraith (in its first edition, at least) not only had the extremely unusual Shadow mechanic but also lacked any sort of clear division of factions.

At the same time, it’s still clear that they came at designing Wraith from the point of view of starting with the Vampire formula and working out how to implement Wraith in it and which bits they would need to scrap or change, rather than starting with the central concept of Wraith and then turning a critical eye on which parts of the formula it called for and which parts shouldn’t be incorporated into the project. That sounds like it should leave you with the same result, but I genuinely think it doesn’t. If you have have to make a case to yourself to justify each aspect of the formula used on a project, rather than having to come up with a seriously good reason to depart from the formula, then you are probably only going to use the bits of the formula which genuinely improve your product, whereas if you only deviate from the formula when you convince yourself you absolutely need to you are going to incorporate all sorts of bits of the formula which don’t add to your product, and may well hurt it in ways which you hadn’t foreseen.

(Of course, rigidly sticking to a formula does help you crank out a lot of product quickly, as White Wolf was prone to in its prime, and also allows you to have a small amount of freelancers producing material with a comparatively consistent approach, as Onyx Path currently does. The use of the formula isn’t just purely about game design considerations  – it’s also an artifact of White Wolf and Onyx Path’s development as businesses.)

In the case of Hunter: the Reckoning, I can absolutely see how White Wolf could have sleepwalked into releasing the game it did, with all that Imbued weirdness, not because of any one individual having a really bad idea but simply for systemic reasons; their approach to making World of Darkness games was set up with certain assumptions about what the audience wanted to see, and Hunter: the Reckoning ticked all the boxes on that checklist; what it didn’t do was please anyone who preferred the idea of hunters as ordinary mortals acting in self-defence against these abhorrent conspiracies and terrifying rage-monsters, rather than supernatural superheroes elevated above ordinary humanity by occult forces in a manner uncomfortably reminiscent of popular depictions of schizophrenia.

To give credit where it’s due with Hunter: the Vigil, it largely avoids that trap. One of the better ideas it offers up is setting different power levels for your game – a street-level cell, a global conspiracy, or a compact hovering somewhere in-between – and reserving special powers (via supernatural or super-science ends) to powerful conspiracies. This is great because it means anyone who actually liked the “hunter with superpowers” angle in Reckoning can still get that goodness, whilst if you hated it you can solve that simply by playing at the cell level only.

However, Vigil to me seems to partially fall foul of a formulaic approach of a different sort – specifically, a desire for there to be some really big unifying capital-T Theme that really ties together all the members of a particular splat in Chronicles. Whilst in general it’s a good idea, it doesn’t work for me here because it seems to me that, what with people being as diverse as they are, their reasons for fighting supernatural threats should be similarly diverse – it doesn’t work for me that the grand theme of the Vigil should permeate cell and conspiracy alike.

Hunters in this book are are capital-H Hunters, which means that by and large they must object to all supernatural stuff equally, whether that’s a vampire predating on people at a nightclub or a benign wizard curing cancer with healing spells. There’s token references to some groups having some tolerance for some supernaturals, but it’s made clear that this is unusual and tends to end poorly; there’s little consideration that there may be scope for an outcome-oriented, pragmatic, consequentialist brand of Hunter who specifically acts only against those doing harm or threatening harm to innocents. Once again, the blinkers come on. Like I said, the Vigil is often spoken about as an actual thing which a substantial number of Hunters believe in at a range of different levels (despite the fact that there should be numerous cells, compacts, and possibly even conspiracies which have never run across the wider Hunter underground), and whilst a token attempt is made to present groups with a range of different ideologies and methods, when it isn’t addressing one of those groups specifically the text tends to snap back to assuming that you’re going to be a guns-blazing vigilante out to violently purge your home town of monsters.

The thing is, in principle Hunter: the Vigil ends up butting up against a slightly different group of competitors and is working in a very different field than the bulk of the rest of the World of Darkness or Chronicles of Darkness games. The bulk of the others – including, arguably, Hunter: the Reckoning – are in the whole “modern day occult world in the shadows” RPG subgenre which Vampire: the Masquerade is the archetypal example of. These are games in which the player characters are all part of a common subculture, and make that subculture central to play, which is the sort of context where an idea like the Vigil and a complex of interacting cells and conspiracies and compacts make sense. But your Hunter concept doesn’t len itself to that – it’s much more along the lines of an older tradition of horror RPGs like Call of Cthulhu or Chill, where the PCs discover awful things and must act to end the threat of them.

You know which Chronicles of Darkness book really nailed that style? The core Chronicles of Darkness rulebook. Conceptually, what is the difference between a Hunter and a PC in a mortals game, beyond a bit of a skills boost you can provide just by being a bit more generous with development points at character generation? Especially once that blue book PC has gained a bit of experience, odds are there’s no difference except this Vigil thing and references to Hunters being a bit obsessive. Sure, a blue book game might not start out with a monster-hunting emphasis and may never develop one, but I suspect most will; unless intended as a prelude to a campaign in a different game line, blue book campaigns will usually revolve around investigating dangerous supernatural threats and resolving them, and most of those are going to have a supernatural creature behind them who won’t stop until they’re killed.

Hunter: the Vigil is redundant and weird because it’s trying to fill a niche and describe a character type that the core book already gave you all the tools you need for, particularly when it comes to the cell tier of play, where the conceptual difference between Vigil and a blue book mortals game is the least. That’s a particular weakness for my purposes because I come to the Chronicles of Darkness for horror, not for a combat-tastic monster-bashing exercise, and the two higher tiers drag things much further away from horror for my liking; the scares are so much more delicious if you can give the PCs a sense of powerlessness, and whilst you can do that for PCs backed up by a major conspiracy (the Delta Green product line manages this on a routine basis) the main way you do that is by isolating them – which largely sabotages the point of being in a larger conspiracy.

More or less the only thing Hunter: the Vigil has going for it that its competitors don’t is that the monsters you hunt in it can include the actual PC types from other Chronicles of Darkness games, but actually that’s just kind of a terrible headache to deal with – statting up NPCs using the full player character generation system for a game is a horrible chore, running NPCs who have access to the full array of powers a player character does likewise.

To give it its due, the core book does present some NPC types you can build adversaries out of, some of which don’t correspond to any major splat. The demons presented here, for instance, are much more classically Satanic than the Agent Smiths you get in Demon: the Descent, because of course that game hadn’t been conceptualised when this one was written.

(The lack of parsimony in Chronicles of Darkness and the proliferation of entities covering the same niche in mutually incompatible ways is a regular source of irritation to me. This is hardly the only example. What’s the difference between a Hunter in Hunter: the Vigil that focuses on hunting Beasts, and a Hero in Beast: the Primordial? The only real difference is that Beast insists that Heroes are bad for trying to take solid action to end an abusive entity whose abuse is intrinsically tied to its ongoing nature, will not end whilst it lives, and cannot be stopped by the conventional authorities, whilst Hunter is willing to entertain the possibility that Hunters might actually be good people. Oh, and Heroes get special powers simply because of the way they got traumatised and then successfully hunted a Beast, but that’s icing on the cake and by no means guaranteed, especially since as I understand it in Beast it is far from clear how a starting Hero ever successfully takes down a Beast given the yawning power gap involved.)

I don’t mean to be completely down on Hunter; it’s just that as far as my horror gaming tastes go there’s a great swathe of games out here that do humans fighting supernatural menace better and without the baggage of trying to resemble a World of Darkness or Chronicles of Darkness game. I like some of the Hunter’s-eye-view overviews of the other splats in the core for the way they pop the bubble of self-importance about the other splats and sometimes have something insightful to say about them; in particular, the book addresses Changelings and points out that whilst they claim (and believe) that they are humans who escaped the True Fae, there’s enough strange about them to raise the possibility that they’re actually faerie replicas sent forth as a form of cruel sport. Not only does this interpretation dial back on the more blatant abuse metaphor underpinning Changeling: the Lost, which some find fascinating whilst others find off-putting, but it also makes it a game where you actually play something approximating a folkloric changeling (since the term refers to the fairy baby left behind by the fair folk, not to the human stolen by them).

If you don’t own the core books for the other lines and don’t want to buy them, the Hunter line does offer a range of supplements giving them a Hunter’s-eye-view treatment (single supplements for the big three of Vampire, Mage and Woof Woof, and the Mortal Remains book for the B-tier splats). The line also enjoys one of the more amusingly point-miss-y concepts White Wolf ever rolled out in the form of World of Darkness: Slasher.

In principle this was a cross-splat book in the generic World of Darkness line, but aside from having the World of Darkness tagline in the title (which thanks to the rebranding to Chronicles of Darkness now is a bit confusing) it’s blatantly a Hunter-oriented supplement. It’s green-tinted like a Hunter book rather than blue-tinted, and it talks about Hunter groups who pursue Slashers about as much as it pursues Slashers themselves.

Slashers are exactly what the name implies – slasher movie antagonists. This sets up the basic problem which causes the supplement to fail, because the action of the slasher genre is simply not suited to implementing in a traditional RPG format. To run a game that even remotely resembles a slasher movie, you’d need a setup which has the player characters picked off one by one until the final confrontation – having a group of characters who get plot immunity from stabbination would really wreck the “Who’s next?” tension of the scenario and not at all reflect the genre – and most early attacks by the killer would need to succeed automatically because if they inadvertently roll extremely poorly on the first attack and get killed by a fluke success on the part of their intended victim. On top of that, you’d need to split the party a lot so that attacks can take place when characters are isolated.

The closest thing I have come to seeing a game which follows the traditional RPG format – in the sense that the players are given primary authority over their PCs and the GM is given primary authority over NPCs and the rest of the world and there’s no storygame-style mechanics for sharing narrative control beyond, perhaps, the occasional hero point-style mechanic – is All Flesh Must Be Eaten, which is trying to support a genre with a very similar problem in that the zombie apocalypse genre screams out for lots of death and loses its teeth if at least some of those deaths aren’t big and meaningful, which in tabletop RPG terms means that you’re going to want to lose PCs now and then. All Flesh solves this by providing really extensive sets of templates that you can instantly pick up and play in order to play a classic zombie movie-style protagonist.

Now, in principle you could produce a similar book of templates for slasher movie cliche characters – it isn’t like they are famed for being especially deep mines of characterisation, after all. However, there’s a problem there – whilst in a zombie apocalypse story you could very viably have the protagonists running into new characters who join up with them – The Walking Dead has trudged on in perpetuity under just such a basis – this works because the zombie disaster is usually worldwide, or at least is widespread enough that new people can still come into the situation without bursting the tension. Slasher movie narratives, however, are based both on the principle of trimming down the cast bit by bit and on isolating them – once you get to a point where new people can wander into the situation you lose tension because you undermine that isolation.

(A template book also isn’t such a good solution for Chronicles of Darkness. For baseline mortal characters it could work fine – as it could for low-tier Hunters – but for any major splat, they’re going to have their payload of special powers that people would need to spend time looking up to figure out how they work and what they do, which isn’t conducive to picking them up and starting to play with them immediately.)

No, the fact is that you can’t run something remotely resembling a slasher movie in a traditional tabletop RPG format, using a system that hasn’t been built from the ground up to support it, and expect it to work particularly well. The combination of the party format and the social expectation that you won’t deliberately try to kill off PCs early on just means it’s a poor fit. For campaign play, it’s absolutely terrible; you could potentially pull it off as a one-shot, but only if you used a system which had a really nice, robust template structure to let people pick up and play bit-part characters once their main PC gets killed off, and even then since the most dramatic sequences in a slasher movie take place with just the killer and a victim present they’re still sitting by the sidelines a lot.

I can see ways you can come up with an experimental storygame structure that could cater to slasher movie action. The main thing you’d want is a robust system for players making contributions to scenes which their characters don’t appear in – then the fact that someone’s PC will likely die quite early on won’t leave them sitting on the sidelines for the rest of the session, and you can isolate the PCs from each other without freezing most of the participants out of the game. You could have players whose characters aren’t involved throw in plot twists to either make it more or less likely that the character will escape the murder attempt. (Maybe you have a limited number of help the killer/help the victim tokens, so if you help the killer slay the early victims easily then the survivors get a better chance of taking the killer down in the final confrontation.)

What you do not need for a slasher game, whether a storygame or a traditional RPG, is an extensive list of special powers that Slashers can have underpinned by a dot-based system like every other World/Chronicles of Darkness entity (which they offer here because White Wolf/Onyx Path absolutely cannot walk away from their fixation with building NPCs in the same way you build PCs). Sure, you can describe some capabilities that they can show, just like some slashers in the movies have abilities which go beyond the human, but you don’t need robust game mechanics for such abilities – just have them run off fiat, just as they run off fiat in the movies.

To the extent that you could run a slasher movie-type scenario in Chronicles of Darkness, the best fit isn’t Hunter because slasher movies aren’t about competent vigilantes going after the slasher, they’re about the slasher going after random victims who have to tap into hitherto-unexpected reserves of grit and determination to survive. That’s not a Hunter concept, that’s a blue-book mortals game.

To give World of Darkness: Slasher a modicum of credit, it seems to understand that, and resolves the problem of being really poorly suited for playing through the action of a slasher movie by flat-out giving up on trying to. The assumption is that you’re going to be going after the Slashers to take them down, rather than being stalked-and-sliced by them, at which point what you aren’t dealing with isn’t a slasher movie so much as you’re dealing with a sort of Silence of the Lambs/Dexter deal where you’re hunting serial killers with colourful, distinctive schticks.

In some respects that’s absolutely fine – “serial killer investigation unit” is a perfectly cromulent concept for a blue book mortals game. On the other hand, it makes absolutely no sense as a Hunter game for several reasons, the first of which is that it doesn’t really play to the sort of questions Hunter wants to ask about whether Hunters are driven by revenge or sadism or other, less salubrious motivations, and about whether in their persecution of monsters they have become monsters themselves. and about whether they even have the right to do this or whether their vigilante activities cause more harm than good.

Let’s start with the third question first. Once you make Slashers a feature of your campaign the answer to this one becomes trivial, and are based not on questions resolved in play but are simply intrinsic to the character types played: if the player characters are in law enforcement, they are entirely justified in going after serial killers because that’s their fucking job, shithead, and if they aren’t in law enforcement then they have no reason to go ice-cold hardline vigilante anyway because once they gather enough evidence to tip off the police their mission is basically accomplished.

Given the dangers that Hunters typically face, needlessly risking life, limb, and legal consequences for going after a threat that they can happily sic the police on would be utterly foolish of them. Basic rule of running RPGs set in the modern day: if the PCs are not cops or other authority figures, then the adversary must be someone who the usual law enforcement agencies either cannot or will not touch (and there’s only so many “serial killer too well-connected to be arrested” plots you can run before they get stale), or make sure the PCs physically cannot call the police, otherwise it becomes entirely too hard to suspend disbelief in them not simply calling the cops.

Having concluded that if you want to run a “hunt the serial killer” campaign you’re pretty much going to have to have the PCs be cops, the other questions are resolved fairly quickly. Whilst police officers can do some nasty, shady, horribly corrupt stuff, generally speaking we do not consider them monsters for going after serial killers, and if anything regard murder investigation as being a genuinely indispensable function of the police where, even if you radically restructured the way the police are structured and operate and completely rethought the very definition of “policing”, you absolutely wouldn’t want to toss out the whole “bring people who flat-out murder other human beings to justice” angle.

On the matter of motivation and whether they become monsters by hunting monsters, If you look at Will Graham in Manhunter or the Hannibal TV series (let us not be tempted by the rather inferior Red Dragon movie), there’s an example of a character who sort of gets into that territory with the whole question of whether he’s good at understanding the thinking of serial killers because he thinks along alarmingly similar lines himself. But your “serial killer investigation unit” RPG can’t have a party made up entirely of Will Grahams – that’s one character concept in a genre which allows for a wide range of them.

Likewise, Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry resorts to some dubious methods in the pursuit of the Scorpio Killer, but on the other hand the worst instances of this come when the Scorpio has a kidnapped victim buried and running out of air somewhere and they desperately need to find out where she is, and the movie makes it clear that precisely because of such corner-cutting the city has to let the suspect go. Again, you are probably not going to have a party of Harry Callahans, and odds are once the players realise that there’s rules on what arrests will stick and which won’t they will, rather than bending them, min-max them shamelessly because they have perfect in-character justification for doing so.

In short, it’s pretty damn easy to not become a monster when chasing a serial killer, and even easier to argue that chasing a serial killer is not an intrinsically monstrous or persecutory act. You can argue that changelings or werewoofles have a right to exist, and maybe even argue that vampires have a right to drink blood if the alternative is death (because at that point it’s basically self-defence, and we concede to people the right to undertake much more permanently damaging or fatal actions against others in that interest), but nobody thinks that murderers have a right to murder.

The second reason that “hunt the serial killer” doesn’t quite work for Hunter is also a major reason why it doesn’t quite scratch the itch on a wider Chronicles/World of Darkness level. A central premise of the Chronicles/World of Darkness lines are that they are supernatural horror stories focusing on a hidden underground of monsters that live in the shadows of the ordinary world (or, in early White Wolf games, a cynical, edgy early-1990s gothic-punk comic book take on the real world), and whose existence is not generally known to most people except as myths.

Specifically for the purpose of Hunter: the Vigil, you have to accept that there are various reasons why Hunters operate in secret – such as the following:

  1. Making some of the things they deal with known to the public would be genuinely dangerous to the public. (Think of terminally ill cancer patients seeking out vampires in the hope that ghouling or the Embrace will cure them; think of the consequences of uploading the Necronomicon to the Internet.)
  2. Some of the things they are coming up against object strongly to their privacy being invaded like that, and have established extensive conspiracies to ensure that this doesn’t happen and to viciously punish transgressors. (Think of the Illuminati-esque reach of the Camarilla in Masquerade, or the Worldwide Mad Deadly Communist Gangster Computer God from Demon: the Descent.)
  3. It’s near impossible to prove the existence of this stuff to people without getting serious evidence in hand – and some of that evidence is very hard to get or, in extreme cases, impossible to obtain.
  4. By the time Hunters become aware that there’s this supernatural stuff going down, they may have already become implicated in some stuff, or at the very least put in a position where it’s easier to believe that they are criminals than they are telling the truth. (“We didn’t butcher that guy, a weird monster teleported in, killed him, and teleported away.” Yeah, sure gang, you just sit over here whilst we take your details…)
  5. Last, but certainly not least, Hunters may believe (correctly or not) that the authorities are compromised and would destroy the Hunters to protect the monsters.

Serial killers more or less wreck all of the above. As far as the general World/Chronicles of Darkness considerations go, even if you throw in slashers with some supernatural capabilities you’re still left with the fact that the general public are fully aware that serial killers exist. They’re an accepted part of life, people are disturbed to hear about them but it doesn’t cause social unrest or disorder to reveal their existence in the usual run of things (you didn’t get riots in the wake of John Wayne Gacy being arrested), and in general if you really wanted to cover up the fact that this serial killer you just caught had supernatural powers the best way to do it is to just leave out the supernatural bit when you tell their story. In general, discovering the existence of serial killers does not open your eyes to a hidden world existing in the shadows of the real one and that most people discount as myth.

This factor further exacerbates the “Why aren’t the cops dealing with this?” angle, further locking in Slasher-focused campaigns to requiring PCs in law enforcement to really work. Sure, Donald Pleasance in Halloween has his warnings rejected at first, but that’s not because his colleagues in the psychiatric profession didn’t believe that serial killers existed – they just didn’t believe that Michael Myers was any particular danger, having gone catatonic after killing his elder sister in childhood, and of course the events of the film rapidly persuade everyone to take Best Blofeld’s warnings seriously.

It’s true that you have stuff like the Smiley Face Killer theory, which is incredibly dubious for all sorts of reasons. (For my part, I’m pretty sure those dudes just fell into water drunk and drowned, and their families were too square and middle-class to want to accept their idea that their precious little boy drank alcohol and the private detectives promoting the theory have either bought into that willingly or are using it to get cheap promotion and infamy for their business.) But even then, scepticism about the Smiley Face Killer doesn’t constitute a refusal to accept that such a killer could potentially exist, just an assertion that the evidence doesn’t support the idea that a serial killer links the deaths in these cases.

Similarly, there’s been deeply unfortunate cases where police forces have failed to investigate a serial killer despite extensive evidence existing of their activities, such as the case of Robert Pickton in Canada, but again that doesn’t mean anyone involved denied the existence of serial killers – and vigilante action to track down the culprit would have likely not been helpful or effective. Moreover, the police’s failure to investigate was a serious scandal.

Since the existence of serial killers is generally known and accepted, and the responsibility of the police to investigate them is likewise more or less universally held to be the case, the end result is that you get something which doesn’t really scratch the ol’ World/Chronicles of Darkness itch. You’re not playing or fighting anything iconically supernatural as you would in a typical game line, you’re not turning the characters’ appreciation of the world on its head as they discover something horrifying like you would in a blue-book mortals game, and in particular, for Hunter: the Vigil purposes the characters aren’t dealing with a lonely, secret war against a foe that most people don’t even believe in, with nobody to confide in except their fellow Hunters. The last, in particular, blows the guts out of the basic underpinnings of the game line.

In fact, let’s pick those five reasons why Hunters do their secret-secret stuff and don’t just call the police and illustrate how Slashers break each of them:

  1. In general, warning the public about the possibility of a serial killer operating and giving them tips on looking out for themselves will make them safer, rather than endangering them. Likewise, informing the public about the discovery of a serial killer may be disturbing once the details come out, but generally isn’t held to be especially corrosive to the social fabric.
  2. Serial killers – even the Slashers in this book – tend to be loners. Even those who operate in small groups (whether in real life or in here) don’t have the sway to enforce a cover-up, or even to prevent a police investigation.
  3. Whilst it can be hard to prove to someone that a serial killer is in operation, most people when presented with a murder victim’s corpse will be willing to posit the existence of a murderer. Generally, if you phone the police and tell them you’ve found a corpse, they’ll believe you and hustle over to where you are reasonably quickly. Whilst it can be quite tricky to prove that a Slasher has supernatural capabilities, generally you wouldn’t need to do so to demonstrate that they are operating and that the police need to get involved.
  4. This is only really a consideration if the PCs aren’t playing law enforcement (if they are, then there’s a whole world of investigative stuff they can do that it would be deeply dodgy for private citizens to attempt), but even then demonstrating the existence of a serial killer can forgive all sorts of sins.
  5. Likewise, if the PCs are law enforcement then they personally are probably willing to take the case forwards, and for their superior officer to willingly suppress the investigation once the PCs start it would realistically require the killer to not only have corrupted the superior in question, but a sufficient segment of the force to avoid scrutiny. In negligence cases like Pickton it’s not a matter of the authorities actively co-operating with the serial killer so much as it comes down to so much as institutional neglect (as seen in a non-serial killer context in The Wire). That isn’t a reason to keep your suspicions secret, at least not until the chief tells you to keep it under wraps, though it may be a dramatic reason to spill the beans to the press to get some outrage going – which is risky, but I’d say falls much more into the realm of acceptable risks in a serial killer-chasing game than spilling the beans about the supernatural does in a typical World/Chronicles of Darkness game or in baseline Hunter: the Vigil.

In short, the type of campaign implied by the use of Slashers as antagonists is antithetical to basic premise of Hunter, because there’s simply no reason to make the investigation secret and they really don’t challenge our worldview in the way that the major secrets of the setting does. Attempt to get the action of a slasher movie out of them, and you end up with something which is too low-powered and reactive compared to Hunter and isn’t brilliant to run under the Chronicles of Darkness system. (If I had to run it as a traditional RPG rather than as a bespoke serial killer-themed storygame I’d basically do it in All Flesh Must Be Eaten, with one killer instead of a horde of zombies, thanks to the mass of template characters offered for it.)

Conversely, if you want to run a game about hunting Slashers, who are basically flashy serial killers, it makes far more sense to run it as a law enforcement-focused game than anything else, at which point you have really no connection with the major themes of Hunter because there’s no secrecy or social unacceptability about undertaking that investigation. (Nor does the supplement really offer much meat in terms of exciting police procedural details which could be used to make that sort of campaign really pop.)

As I understand it, the 2nd edition of Hunter: the Vigil is going to focus on Slashers as the big bad – it’s the Slasher Chronicle, just as the 2nd edition of Requiem was the Strix Chronicle. I tend to think that this will be a mistake, unless 2nd edition Vigil constitutes a really major rethink.

2 thoughts on “Vigilantly Seeking a Point

  1. Anyoneatall

    I have had some people read this article of yours and many of them seem to disagree with you about this topic

    Would you mind if i commented here some responses i got to see what your thoughts about them are?

    Thank you in advance

    1. I don’t mind at all, with the following provisos:

      – It’s understood that this article discusses H:tV 1st Edition – I’ve not read 2nd and don’t intend to (and bear in mind that I’m the sort of ornery person where if you try and persuade me to read something I’m disinterested in, I respond by becoming even more unlikely to read it).

      – Please make it extremely clear which responses come from which individuals (use pseudonyms or “commenter A”, “commenter B” etc. if necessary), so I don’t mistake any responses as being more connected than they actually are.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.